An antiretroviral drug used to prevent HIV transmission from mother to child during pregnancy may affect language development in infants, even if they are born without the disease, suggests a study from Harvard University.
Atazanavir is used to treat the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infections in adults and children, according to MedlinePlus from the U.S. National Library of Medicine. It does not cure HIV, but it decreases its amount in the blood.
Results from the study would appear to show that there’s a link between a decrement in language development and social-emotional skills in one-year-old infants and atazanavir consumption during pregnancy. However, the same link was not found with other antiretroviral drugs, said the team of researchers led by Dr. Ellen Caniglia from Harvard T.J. Chan School of Public Health
Members of the Pediatric HIV/Aids Cohort Study group analyzed data of 917 babies, whose mothers were HIV-positive, but did not born with HIV infection, said Pharmaceutical Processing on Tuesday. European and U.S. guidelines recommend all mothers to take antiretroviral drugs during pregnancy to reduce mother-to-child HIV transmission.
Moreover, researchers conducted infant development tests in babies whose mothers took atazanavir as well as in babies whose mothers received antiretroviral treatments but not atazanavir. The first group of babies showed lower language development scores and lower social-emotional scores.
“The absolute difference is small”
That being said, cognitive, motor and adaptive behavior appeared to be similar in both groups of babies, who obtained average scores within the normal ranges. According to Dr. Caniglia, the differences may not have large clinical implications, wrote Pharmaceutical Processing.
“In utero exposure to atazanavir-containing regimens compared to non-atazanavir-containing regimens may adversely affect language and social-emotional development in infants during the first year of life, but the absolute difference is small.” wrote Dr. Caniglia and colleagues in their study.
More investigation needs to be done in order to determine if results in language development and social-emotional skills are still different in infants whose mothers took atazanavir, in comparison of infants whose mothers used different antiretroviral drugs, but after one year of age.
HIV in the United States
More than 1.2 million Americans, aged more than 13 years, are currently living with HIV infection, says the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC). Of which 12.8 percent are not aware of their infection.
According to the CDC, the incidence of HIV has remained stable in the last years, however, the number of people living with the infection has increased due to treatments and science advancements. HIV can be transmitted to children during pregnancy, but if pregnant women take antiretroviral medication such as atazanavir, the risk of transmission falls to just 1 percent.
By 2010, there were an estimate of 217 children younger than the age of 13 with HIV, in the nation.
Source: Pharmaceutical Processing