HIV Drug Used During Pregnancy May Result In Developmental Effects

First Posted: Feb 22, 2016 03:52 PM EST

New findings published in the journal AIDS show that pregnant women infected with the virus who take the antiretroviral (ARV) drug atazanavir may have children with developmental problems.

Findings showed that babies born to these mothers showed slightly reduced language scores and social-emotional development, compared to ARV (anti-retroviral) regimens that did not contain atazanavir. This drug is known as a protease inhibitor and is included in some ARV regimens used to treat HIV. 

The study involved analyzing data on almost 1,000 infants who were born to HIV-positive mothers but who did not contract the HIV infection, themselves, because all mothers were on ARV therapy during their pregnancy.

At the one-year mark, researchers assessed the infants based on a standard test of infant development, including the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development-Third Edition, or "Bayley III." Then, they compared the scores of the five Bayley III subscales to close to 200 infants whose mothers took atazanvir to almost 1,000 babies whose mothers received ARV regiments, but not atazanavir.

Findings showed that language scores were three points lower in the atazanavir group compared to an average subscale score of 93 in other groups. Social-emotional scores were also five points lower when compared to an average of 100.

These differences "may not have large clinical implications, but they add another risk to the constellation of existing biological and socio-environmental risk factors to which these children are often exposed," according to Dr. Ellen C. Caniglia, ScD, of Harvard T.J. Chan School of Public Health and colleagues, in a news release.

While future studies will be needed in order to assess whether this developmental differences persist beyond one year of age, other questions remain--including whether other drugs that interact with atazanavir as part of the therapy could contribute to the problem. 

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