Early Treatment Of HIV-Positive Infants Might Allow Later Therapy Interruptions, Study Shows

According to results from the long-running CHER trial published online in The Lancet, HIV-positive “[c]hildren who began an immediate course of [antiretroviral (ARV)] drugs were able to interrupt their treatment, giving them a break from the powerful, potentially toxic drugs,” Agence France-Presse/GlobalPost reports (8/21). “‘Breaks’ from HIV treatment could help reduce drug resistance in children, who have fewer ARV treatment options than adults, and reduce side effects in the long term, according to Dr. Mark Cotton, the study’s lead author and Tygerburg Hospital’s head of pediatric infectious diseases,” Health-e News notes.

Conducted in South Africa “among 377 HIV-positive infants, the randomized controlled clinical trial tested whether babies who started ARVs at about two months old could safely interrupt their treatment with careful monitoring,” the news service writes, adding, “Babies in the study were placed on ARVs and then stopped at either 10 months or two years. Babies were restarted on treatment if their CD4 counts fell to less than 1000.” Health-e continues, “At the end of the trial, about half of the babies who had interrupted treatment were still well enough to remain off ARVs” (Gonzalez, 8/22). While the findings renew “hopes … that patients could get a temporary holiday from AIDS drugs,” Robert Colebunders of the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Belgium and Victor Musiime of Makerere University College of Health Sciences in Uganda cautioned against the practice in an accompanying commentary, AFP notes, adding, “Treatment interruption is a risky option in poor countries which lack laboratory facilities to monitor levels of CD4 immune cells, they said” (8/21).