Mother treated with antiretroviral therapy (HAART) pass the virus onto their breastfeeding babies less often, when compared to breastfeeding mothers who were treated with conventional methods.
New research has revealed that mother treated with highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) pass the virus onto their breastfeeding babies less often, when compared to breastfeeding mothers who were treated with conventional methods.
Africa is the source of most HIV-1 infant infection via breastfeeding. Doctors and researchers believe more women should be given HAART treatment as soon as possible to reduce the spread of the HIV virus.
A total of 2,318 pairs of infants/mothers were studied during the research. Of the pairs, 6% or 130 infants, contracted HIV from their mothers during breastfeeding. The number of mothers who passed on the virus to their babies was reduced by 82% in cases where the mother's CD 4 levels were low enough to receive the HAART when compared to mothers with the same CD 4 levels not receiving treatment. The transmission rate was only 1.8%.
Mothers who received no treatment had a transmission rate of 10.6% in cases where CD 4 levels were consistently low. Mothers with higher CD 4 levels who would not have qualified for HAART, represented a transmission rate of 3.7%.
Researchers note that it is important to further study the effect of HAART in mothers with higher CD 4 levels and the transmission of HIV via breastfeeding. Until further study can be completed, doctors are hoping new treatment programs can be put in place to reduce the number of mother / infant transmissions. Currently, babies are given nevirapine or nevirapine and zidovudine to stave off the transmission of the virus. This treatment is maintained until the baby is 14 weeks of age.
With 70% of all Malawi mothers maintaining CD 4 levels too high to receive HAART, doctors believe an extended treatment program of the same medications beyond the 14th week could prove beneficial for the infants.
Source: The Journal of Infectious Diseases - November 2009