The newest study on the subject has shown that HIV preventing drug can affect unborn babies. The drug in question is atazanavir and is used to prevent the transmission of the disease to the offspring. However, children of mothers who take the drug during pregnancy might suffer from cognitive development issues.
The results of the study were released in the AIDS journal, and have demonstrated these children had difficulties related to emotional and social developments later in life, but also scored less in language tests. None of the children had HIV.
Researchers studied more than one thousand HIV positive mothers and their babies, and compared the results of the children to the ones from mothers that did not take atazanavir. The pill is one of the antiretroviral protease inhibitors and its purpose is both to treat HIV and to prevent the virus from spreading to the offspring.
One year after the babies were born, researchers created a standard test to see whether the children had any development problems related to atazanavir. The results were compared to the ones of children whose mothers did not take the pill, but still went through ARV therapy.
The results pointed out that babies who were affected by the drug scored lower with three points than the others in the standard test, but also in tests meant to assess their emotional and social development.
Lead study-author and researcher at the T.J. Chan School of Public Health from Harvard, Ellen C. Caniglia, has stated that the differences they recorded are not big enough to alarm us of determined clinical implications. After all, staying clear of HIV is much more important in this case, especially since those born to mothers infected with HIV are already prone to many risks related to cognitive development. Atazanavir only deepens their problem.
So what is next? Researchers are planning to observe other developments in babies affected by the drug as they age. Furthermore, they will study whether there are other medications that interact with atazanavir and thus lead to those problems.
Even if an HIV preventing drug can affect unborn babies, the virus transmission rates have greatly decreased over the last years. This positive development has happened because of retroviral therapy. Last but not least, reports have shown that less than two hundred babies contact HIV at birth in the U.S.
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