Wednesday, 06 Aug, 2008 Science

HIV Drug Persists in Breast Milk


Researchers claim that a drug used in the developing countries for preventing the transmission of HIV from mother to baby, is preserved in breast milk, which can lead to the development of drug-resistant strains of HIV in newborns.

The drug is called nevirapine and it persists in the blood and breast milk in mothers infected with the virus for at least 2 weeks. During this period of time the virus is able to mutate and turn into drug-resistant strains of HIV that can be quite complicated to treat.

"In the short term, nevirapine is better than nothing. But in the long term, I'm concerned about conferring resistance. If you're talking about resistance on a broad scale, it could jeopardize future treatment for mothers and infants," outlined David Katzenstein, professor of infectious diseases and lead researcher of the study.

According to the data provided by UN Joint Program on HIV/AIDS, in 2007 about 420,000 babies infected with HIV were born, most of them from HIV-infected mothers living in sub-Saharan Africa.

The two drugs, zidovudine (AZT) and nevirapine, are used in public health programs, that work in the developing countries, in order to prevent HIV transmission from mother to child are. Both drugs have been used in about 900,000 women and newborns around the world.

The two medicines are rather inexpensive and are easy to administer. Usually mothers who go into labor are given nevirapine in form of a pill and babies are given the drug in form of a liquid shortly after their birth.

The drug helps reduce the risk of HIV transmission by 50 percent, to nearly 13 percent. But very few women who live in the sub-Saharan Africa have access to the zidovudine and/or nevirapine.

In their latest study, researchers from Stanford tried to better understand the issue. Scientists observed a group of 32 women infected with HIV living in Zimbabwe. Together with his associates David Katzenstein has performed researches and carried out clinical programs in HIV/AIDS for over a decade.

All women from the group, when going into labor, received only nevirapine, mostly for the sake of their children.

Scientists discovered that the medicine persisted in the body for several weeks. Over half of the observed women had detectable levels of nevirapine in just 2 weeks after delivery. Researchers also found that two thirds featured measurable amount of the drug in their breast milk at 2 weeks.

The results were presented at the International AIDS Conference by the co-author of the research Seble Kassaye.

Source: News Yahoo

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