Research has shown the drugs zidovudine and nevirapine reduce the mother-to-child transmission of HIV in breastfeeding women in Africa. The treatment is generally given late in pregnancy and continued until early infancy. Researchers conducted a study to determine if the two drugs given together reduced transmission more than just nevirapine alone when given after the baby is born.
Recent research shows a combination drug therapy given to babies soon after childbirth is effective at preventing HIV transmission from mother to child. The therapy was used because the babies' mothers did not know they were HIV positive until the time of delivery.
The study included 1,100 babies of African women in which the mother did not know she was HIV-positive until about two hours before delivery. The babies were randomly given nevirapine alone or the combination therapy. Both drugs were given immediately after birth. The infant's HIV status was determined at birth and six to eight weeks later.
According to the study, 15 percent of the babies given the combination therapy were HIV-positive compared to 21 percent of the babies given nevirapine alone. Of the babies who were HIV-negative at birth, 7.7 percent of the babies given the combination therapy were HIV-positive at the follow up test compared to 12.1 percent of the babies given nevirapine alone.
Researchers conclude the combination therapy could be a way to reach babies of women who are not tested during pregnancy and do not find out they are HIV-positive until they give birth. They say this is especially important in parts of Africa where women arrive to the labor room without knowledge of their HIV status, making it too late for other treatment options.