Sexual Health news - Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Combination drug therapy may prevent intrapartum HIV transmission

HIV-positive women who are pregnant run the risk of transmitting the disease to their baby, either during pregnancy or the delivery process. Previously, babies at risk were given zidovudine (AZT) after birth to prevent infection of the virus. However, the drug has been observed to be ineffective in some cases.

A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported on the use of two- or three-combination drug therapy to infants within two days of delivery. After observing 1,684 babies that were formula-fed (the researchers used this mode because breastfeeding may further increase the risk of an infant acquiring the HIV virus from its mother) it was found that multiple drugs had a statistically significant effect, when compared to AZT administration alone.

"While giving AZT alone to the infant can reduce intrapartum transmission to some degree, our data demonstrates that with the use of two- or three-drug regimens to the baby, you can cut transmission to half of what can be achieved with AZT alone," said Karin Nielsen-Saines, M.D., the study's lead investigator.

Implementing the use of two-drug therapy may prevent infection

These findings are only applicable to high-risk infants delivered from mothers who were not receiving drug therapy during pregnancy, who only run a 1 percent chance of transmitting the HIV virus. The study also found that three-drug combination therapy was more toxic than two and may be the preferred method since there was no significant difference between the two treatments. Going forward, AZT, with the addition of nevirapine, may be the most effective prophylaxis option for high-risk infants.