Nevirapine Single-Dose Reduces Transmission of HIV from Mother to Child

WASHINGTON, July 14 (AFP) - A new, easily administered drug has cut in half the spread of AIDS from HIV infected mothers to their infants, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced Wednesday.

According to the NIH, a single dose of antiretroviral nevirapine taken orally by the mother while in labor, followed by a dose for the baby three days after birth, reduced the transmission rate by half compared to a similar short course of AZT.

The development could halt the spread of AIDS to newborns in developing countries by some 300,00 to 400,000 babies a year, according to test results in Uganda.

"This study represents the most promising advance to date toward the goal of finding strategies that can be used worldwide to prevent the spread of HIV from infected mothers to their infants," National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci said.

AZT-based AIDS treatment proved to be too expensive and complicated for developing nations to use, where many mothers do not receive any pre-natal care.

Based on wholesale prices in the United States, the nevirapine treatment was 200 times cheaper than long-term AZT use, and 70 percent cheaper than short-term AZT treatment.

"This extraordinary finding is the most recent in our efforts to bring an end to AIDS, not only in the United States but in countries around the world," Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala said.

According to the United Nations AIDS program in developing nations every day some 1,800 infants are born with the AIDS virus. In hardest-hit AIDS areas, almost 30 percent of pregnant women are infected with HIV and 25 to 35 percent of their infants are born infected.