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1.  HIV-1 Drug Resistance Emergence among Breastfeeding Infants Born to HIV-Infected Mothers during a Single-Arm Trial of Triple-Antiretroviral Prophylaxis for Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission: A Secondary Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(3):e1000430.
Analysis of a substudy of the Kisumu breastfeeding trial by Clement Zeh and colleagues reveals the emergence of HIV drug resistance in HIV-positive infants born to HIV-infected mothers treated with antiretroviral drugs.
Background
Nevirapine and lamivudine given to mothers are transmitted to infants via breastfeeding in quantities sufficient to have biologic effects on the virus; this may lead to an increased risk of a breastfed infant's development of resistance to maternal antiretrovirals. The Kisumu Breastfeeding Study (KiBS), a single-arm open-label prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT) trial, assessed the safety and efficacy of zidovudine, lamivudine, and either nevirapine or nelfinavir given to HIV-infected women from 34 wk gestation through 6 mo of breastfeeding. Here, we present findings from a KiBS trial secondary analysis that evaluated the emergence of maternal ARV-associated resistance among 32 HIV-infected breastfed infants.
Methods and Findings
All infants in the cohort were tested for HIV infection using DNA PCR at multiple study visits during the 24 mo of the study, and plasma RNA viral load for all HIV-PCR–positive infants was evaluated retrospectively. Specimens from mothers and infants with viral load >1,000 copies/ml were tested for HIV drug resistance mutations. Overall, 32 infants were HIV infected by 24 mo of age, and of this group, 24 (75%) infants were HIV infected by 6 mo of age. Of the 24 infants infected by 6 mo, nine were born to mothers on a nelfinavir-based regimen, whereas the remaining 15 were born to mothers on a nevirapine-based regimen. All infants were also given single-dose nevirapine within 48 hours of birth. We detected genotypic resistance mutations in none of eight infants who were HIV-PCR positive by 2 wk of age (specimens from six infants were not amplifiable), for 30% (6/20) at 6 wk, 63% (14/22) positive at 14 wk, and 67% (16/24) at 6 mo post partum. Among the 16 infants with resistance mutations by 6 mo post partum, the common mutations were M184V and K103N, conferring resistance to lamivudine and nevirapine, respectively. Genotypic resistance was detected among 9/9 (100%) and 7/15 (47%) infected infants whose mothers were on nelfinavir and nevirapine, respectively. No mutations were detected among the eight infants infected after the breastfeeding period (age 6 mo).
Conclusions
Emergence of HIV drug resistance mutations in HIV-infected infants occurred between 2 wk and 6 mo post partum, most likely because of exposure to maternal ARV drugs through breast milk. Our findings may impact the choice of regimen for ARV treatment of HIV-infected breastfeeding mothers and their infected infants.
Trial Registration
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00146380
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Globally, more than 2 million children are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), and half a million children are newly infected every year. These infections are mainly the result of mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV during pregnancy, labor and delivery, or through breastfeeding. MTCT can be greatly reduced by treating HIV-positive mothers and their babies with antiretroviral drugs (ARVs). Without ARVs, up to half of babies born to HIV-positive mothers become infected with HIV. This rate of transmission falls to below 5% if a combination of three ARVs is given to the mother throughout pregnancy. Unfortunately, this triple-ARV therapy is too expensive for use in the resource-limited countries where most MTCT occurs. Instead, many such countries have introduced simpler, shorter ARV regimens such as a daily dose of zidovudine (a nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor or NRTI) given to HIV-positive women during late pregnancy coupled with single-dose nevirapine (a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor or NNRTI) at the onset of labor, zidovudine and lamivudine (another NRTI) during labor and delivery, and single-dose nevirapine given to the baby at birth.
Why Was This Study Done?
More than 95% of HIV-exposed children are born in resource-limited settings where breastfeeding is the norm and is crucial for child survival even though it poses a risk of HIV transmission. Consequently, several recent studies have investigated whether MTCT can be further reduced by giving the mother ARVs while she is breastfeeding. In the Kisumu Breastfeeding Study (KiBS), for example, researchers assessed the effects of giving zidovudine, lamivudine, and either nevirapine or nelfinavir (a protease inhibitor) to HIV-infected women from 34 weeks of pregnancy through 6 months of breastfeeding. The results of KiBS indicate that this approach might be a safe, feasible way to reduce MTCT (see the accompanying paper by Thomas and colleagues). However, low amounts of nevirapine and lamivudine are transferred from mother to infant in breast milk and this exposure to ARVs could induce the development of resistance to ARVs among HIV-infected infants. In this KiBS substudy, the researchers investigate whether HIV drug resistance emerged in any of the HIV-positive infants in the parent study.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In KiBS, 32 infants were HIV-positive at 24 months old; 24 were HIV-positive at 6 months old when their mothers stopped taking ARVs and when breastfeeding was supposed to stop. The researchers analyzed blood samples taken from these infants at various ages and from their mothers for the presence of HIV drug resistance mutations (DNA changes that make HIV resistant to killing by ARVs). They detected no resistance mutations in samples taken from 2-week old HIV-positive infants or from the infants who became infected after the age of 6 months. However, they found resistance mutations in a third and two-thirds of samples taken from 6-week and 6-month old HIV-positive infants, respectively. The commonest mutations conferred resistance to lamivudine and nevirapine. Moreover, resistance mutations were present in samples taken from all the HIV-positive infants whose mothers who had received nelfinavir but in only half those taken from infants whose mothers who had received nevirapine. Finally, most of the mothers of HIV-positive infants had no HIV drug resistance mutations, and only one mother-infant pair had an overlapping pattern of HIV drug resistance mutations.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that, in this KiBS substudy, the emergence of HIV drug resistance mutations in HIV-infected infants whose mothers were receiving ARVs occurred between 2 weeks and 6 months after birth. The pattern of mutations suggests that drug resistance most likely arose through exposure of the infants to low levels of ARVs in breast milk rather than through MTCT of drug-resistant virus. These findings need confirming but suggest that infants exposed to ARVs through breast milk—a situation that may become increasingly common given the reduction in MTCT seen in KiBS and other similar trials—should be carefully monitored for HIV infection. Providers should consider the mothers' regimen when choosing treatment for infants who are found to be HIV-infected despite maternal triple drug prophylaxis. Infants exposed to a maternal regimen with NNRTI drugs should receive first-line therapy with lopinavir/ritonavir, a protease inhibitor. The significance of the NRTI mutations such as M184V with regard to response to therapy needs further evaluation. The M184V mutation may result in hypersensitization to other NRTI drugs and delay or reverse zidovudine resistance. Given the limited availability of alternative drugs for infants in resource-limited settings, provision of the standard WHO-recommended first-line NRTI backbone, which includes 3TC, with enhanced monitoring of the infant to ensure virologic suppression, could be considered. Such an approach should reduce both illness and morbidity among infants who become HIV positive through breastfeeding.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1371/journal.pmed.1000430.
The accompanying PLoS Medicine Research article by Thomas and colleagues describes the primary findings of the Kisumu Breastfeeding Study
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on HIV/AIDS
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on children, HIV, and AIDS and on preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV (in English and Spanish)
UNICEF also has information about children and HIV and AIDS (in several languages)
The World Health organization has information on mother-to-child transmission of HIV (in several languages), and guidance on the use of ARVs for preventing MTCT
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000430
PMCID: PMC3066134  PMID: 21468304
2.  Breast milk cellular HIV-specific interferon γ responses are associated with protection from peripartum HIV transmission 
AIDS (London, England)  2012;26(16):2007-2016.
Objective
Breast milk is a major route of infant HIV infection, yet the majority of breast-fed, HIV-exposed infants escape infection by unknown mechanisms. This study aimed to investigate the role of HIV-specific breast milk cells in preventing infant HIV infection.
Design
A prospective study was designed to measure associations between maternal breast milk HIV-specific interferon-γ (IFN-γ) responses and infant HIV-1 detection at 1 month of age.
Methods
In a Kenyan cohort of HIV-infected mothers, blood and breastmilk HIV-gag IFN-γ ELISpot responses were measured. Logistic regression was used to measure associations between breast milk IFN-γ responses and infant HIV infection at 1 month of age.
Results
IFN-γ responses were detected in breast milk from 117 of 170 (69%) women. IFN-γ responses were associated with breast milk viral load, levels of macrophage inflammatory protein (MIP) 1α, MIP-1β, regulated upon activation, normal T-cell expressed, and secreted and stromal-cell derived factor 1 and subclinical mastitis. Univariate factors associated with infant HIV infection at 1 month postpartum included both detection and breadth of breast milk IFN-γ response (P =0.08, P =0.04, respectively), breast milk MIP-1β detection (P =0.05), and plasma (P =0.004) and breast milk (P =0.004) viral load. In multivariate analyses adjusting for breast milk viral load and MIP-1β, breast milk IFN-γ responses were associated with an approximately 70% reduction in infant HIV infection [adjusted odds ratio (aOR) 0.29, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.092–0.91], and each additional peptide pool targeted was associated with an approximately 35% reduction in infant HIV (aOR 0.65, 95% CI 0.44–0.97).
Conclusion
These data show breast milk HIV-gag-specific IFN-γ cellular immune responses are prevalent and may contribute to protection from early HIV transmission. More broadly, these data suggest breast milk cellular responses are potentially influential in decreasing mother-to-child transmission of viruses.
doi:10.1097/QAD.0b013e328359b7e0
PMCID: PMC3718292  PMID: 22948269
breastfeeding; breast milk cytotoxic T lymphocytes; cytokines; early postnatal transmission; infant; MIP-1β; pediatric; sub-Saharan Africa
3.  Incidence and Correlates of HIV-1 RNA Detection in the Breast Milk of Women Receiving HAART for the Prevention of HIV-1 Transmission 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e29777.
Background
The incidence and correlates of breast milk HIV-1 RNA detection were determined in intensively sampled women receiving highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) for the prevention of mother-to-child HIV-1 transmission.
Methods
Women initiated HAART at 34 weeks of pregnancy. Breast milk was collected every 2–5 days during 1 month postpartum for measurements of cell-associated HIV DNA and cell-free HIV RNA. Plasma and breast milk were also collected at 2 weeks, 1, 3 and 6 months for concurrent HIV-1 RNA and DNA measurements. Regression was used to identify cofactors for breast milk HIV-1 RNA detection.
Results
Of 259 breast milk specimens from 25 women receiving HAART, 34 had detectable HIV-1 RNA (13%, incidence 1.4 episodes/100 person-days 95% CI = 0.97–1.9). Fourteen of 25 (56%) women had detectable breast milk HIV-1 RNA [mean 2.5 log10 copies/ml (range 2.0–3.9)] at least once. HIV-1 DNA was consistently detected in breast milk cells despite HAART, and increased slowly over time, at a rate of approximately 1 copy/106 cells per day (p = 0.02). Baseline CD4, plasma viral load, HAART duration, and frequency of breast problems were similar in women with and without detectable breast milk HIV-1 RNA. Women with detectable breast milk HIV-1 RNA were more likely to be primiparous than women without (36% vs 0%, p = 0.05). Plasma HIV-1 RNA detection (OR = 9.0, 95%CI = 1.8–44) and plasma HIV-1 RNA levels (OR = 12, 95% CI = 2.5–56) were strongly associated with concurrent detection of breast milk HIV-1 RNA. However, no association was found between breast milk HIV-1 DNA level and concurrent breast milk HIV-1 RNA detection (OR = 0.96, 95%CI = 0.54–1.7).
Conclusions
The majority of women on HAART had episodic detection of breast milk HIV-1 RNA. Breast milk HIV-1 RNA detection was associated with systemic viral burden rather than breast milk HIV-1 DNA.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029777
PMCID: PMC3256181  PMID: 22253778
4.  HIV: prevention of mother-to-child transmission  
BMJ Clinical Evidence  2011;2011:0909.
Introduction
Over 2 million children are thought to be living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, of whom over 80% live in sub-Saharan Africa. Without antiretroviral treatment, the risk of HIV transmission from infected mothers to their children is 15% to 30% during gestation or labour, with an additional transmission risk of 10% to 20% associated with prolonged breastfeeding. HIV-1 infection accounts for most infections; HIV-2 is rarely transmitted from mother to child. Transmission is more likely in mothers with high viral loads, advanced disease, or both, in the presence of other sexually transmitted diseases, and with increased exposure to maternal blood. Mixed feeding practices (breast milk plus other liquids or solids) and prolonged breastfeeding are also associated with increased risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
Methods and outcomes
We conducted a systematic review and aimed to answer the following clinical question: What are the effects of measures to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV? We searched: Medline, Embase, The Cochrane Library, and other important databases up to October 2009 (Clinical Evidence reviews are updated periodically, please check our website for the most up-to-date version of this review). We included harms alerts from relevant organisations such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). We performed a GRADE evaluation of the quality of evidence for interventions.
Results
We found 53 systematic reviews, RCTs, or observational studies that met our inclusion criteria.
Conclusions
In this systematic review we present information relating to the effectiveness and safety of the following interventions: antiretroviral drugs, different methods of infant feeding, elective caesarean section, immunotherapy, micronutrient supplements, vaginal microbicides, and vitamin supplements.
Key Points
Without active intervention, the risk of mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV-1 is high, especially in populations where prolonged breastfeeding is the norm. Without antiviral treatment, the risk of transmission of HIV from infected mothers to their children is approximately 15% to 30% during pregnancy and labour, with an additional transmission risk of 10% to 20% associated with prolonged breastfeeding.HIV-2 is rarely transmitted from mother to child.Transmission is more likely in mothers with high viral loads, advanced HIV disease, or both.Without antiretroviral treatment (ART), 15% to 35% of vertically infected infants die within the first year of life.The long-term treatment of children with ART is complicated by multiple concerns regarding the complications associated with life-long treatment, including adverse effects of antiretroviral drugs, difficulties of adherence across the developmental trajectory of childhood and adolescence, and the development of resistance.From a paediatric perspective, successful prevention of MTCT and HIV-free survival for infants remain the most important focus.
Antiretroviral drugs given to the mother during pregnancy or labour, to the baby immediately after birth, or to the mother and baby reduce the risk of intrauterine and intrapartum MTCT of HIV-1 and when given to the infant after birth and to the mother or infant during breastfeeding reduce the risk of postpartum MTCT of HIV-1.
Reductions in MTCT are possible using multidrug ART regimens. Longer courses of ART are more effective, but the greatest benefit is derived from treatment during late pregnancy, labour, and early infancy.Suppression of the maternal viral load to undetectable levels (below 50 copies/mL) using highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) offers the greatest risk reduction, and is currently the standard of care offered in most resource-rich countries, where MTCT rates have been reduced to 1% to 2%. Alternative short-course regimens have been tested in resource-limited settings where HAART is not yet widely available. There is evidence that short courses of antiretroviral drugs have confirmed efficacy for reducing MTCT. Identifying optimal short-course regimens (drug combination, timing, and cost effectiveness) for various settings remains a focus for ongoing research.The development of viral resistance in mothers and infants after single-dose nevirapine and other short-course regimens that include single-dose nevirapine is of concern. An additional short-course of antiretrovirals with a different regimen during labour and early postpartum, and the use of HAART, may decrease the risk of viral resistance in mothers, and in infants who become HIV-infected despite prophylaxis.World Health Organization guidelines recommend starting prophylaxis with antiretroviral drugs from as early as 14 weeks' gestation, or as soon as possible if women present late in pregnancy, in labour, or at delivery.
Elective caesarean section at 38 weeks may reduce vertical transmission rates (apart from breast-milk transmission). The potential benefits of this intervention need to be balanced against the increased risk of surgery-associated complications, high cost, and feasibility issues. These reservations are particularly relevant in resource-limited settings.
Immunotherapy with HIV hyperimmune globulin seems no more effective than immunoglobulin without HIV antibody at reducing HIV-1 MTCT risk.
Vaginal microbicides have not been demonstrated to reduce HIV-1 MTCT risk.
There is no evidence that supplementation with vitamin A reduces the risk of HIV-1 MTCT, and there is concern that postnatal vitamin A supplementation for mother and infant may be associated with increased risk of mortality.
We don't know whether micronutrients are effective in prevention of MTCT of HIV as we found no RCT evidence on this outcome.
Avoidance of breastfeeding prevents postpartum transmission of HIV, but formula feeding requires access to clean water and health education. The risk of breastfeeding-related HIV transmission needs to be balanced against the multiple benefits that breastfeeding offers. In resource-poor countries, breastfeeding is strongly associated with reduced infant morbidity and improved child survival. Exclusive breastfeeding during the first 6 months may reduce the risk of HIV transmission compared with mixed feeding, while retaining most of its associated benefits.In a population where prolonged breastfeeding is usual, early, abrupt weaning may not reduce MTCT or HIV-free survival at 2 years compared with prolonged breastfeeding, and may be associated with a higher rate of infant mortality for those infants diagnosed as HIV-infected at <4 months of age. Antiretrovirals given to the mother or the infant during breastfeeding can reduce the risk of HIV transmission in the postpartum period. World Health Organization guidelines recommend that HIV-positive mothers should exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months, after which time appropriate complementary foods can be introduced. Breastfeeding should be continued for the first 12 months of the infant's life, and stopped only when an adequate diet without breast milk can be provided. Heat- or microbicidal-treated expressed breast milk may offer value in particular settings.
PMCID: PMC3217724  PMID: 21477392
5.  Cytomegalovirus and Epstein-Barr Virus in Breast Milk are Associated with HIV-1 Shedding but Not With Mastitis 
AIDS (London, England)  2008;22(12):1453-1460.
Background
Breast milk HIV-1 load is associated with clinical and subclinical mastitis, and both milk viral load and mastitis are associated with increased mother-to-child-transmission of HIV-1 (MTCT) through breastfeeding. Bacterial infections may cause clinical mastitis, but whether other co-pathogens common in HIV-1 infection are associated with subclinical mastitis or HIV-1 shedding is unknown.
Design
A cross-sectional study of HIV-1 infected breastfeeding women in Zimbabwe was performed to examine the relationship between a wide range of breast co-infections, mastitis, and HIV-1 shedding.
Methods
Breast milk was cultured for bacteria and fungi, and tested by PCR for mycobacteria, mycoplasmas, human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6), HHV-7, HHV-8, cytomegalovirus (CMV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), and HIV-1 RNA and DNA. Symptoms of clinical mastitis were documented, and subclinical mastitis was identified by breast milk sodium concentration (Na+) and leukocyte counts.
Results
Co-infections of milk were not associated with clinical or subclinical mastitis in the 217 women studied. Detection of HIV-1 RNA, but not DNA, in breast milk was associated with CMV concentration (OR 1.8, p=0.002) and detection of EBV (OR 3.8, p=0.0003), but not other co-infections in multivariate analysis.
Conclusions
Co-infection of breast milk with bacteria, fungi or herpes viruses was not associated with mastitis. The associations between shedding of CMV and EBV with HIV-1 in milk suggest a local interaction between herpes virus infection and HIV-1 independent of mastitis. CMV and EBV infections may impact HIV-1 shedding in breast milk and the risk of MTCT.
doi:10.1097/QAD.0b013e32830184f2
PMCID: PMC2504751  PMID: 18614868
MTCT; breastfeeding; mastitis; CMV; EBV; HHV-6; HHV-7; HHV-8; mycobacteria; mycoplasmas
6.  Nevirapine, Sodium Concentration and HIV-1 RNA in Breast Milk and Plasma among HIV-Infected Women Receiving Short-Course Antiretroviral Prophylaxis 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(3):e0121111.
Introduction
Risk factors for breast milk transmission of HIV-1 from mother to child include high plasma and breast milk viral load, low maternal CD4 count and breast pathology such as mastitis.
Objective
To determine the impact of nevirapine and subclinical mastitis on HIV-1 RNA in maternal plasma and breast milk after intrapartum single-dose nevirapine combined with either 1-week tail of Combivir (zidovudine/lamivudine) or single-dose Truvada (tenofovir/emtricitabine).
Methods
Maternal plasma and bilateral breast milk samples were collected between April 2008 and April 2011 at 1, 4 and 6 weeks postpartum from HIV-infected Tanzanian women. Moreover, plasma samples were collected at delivery from mother and infant.
Results
HIV-1 RNA was quantified in 1,212 breast milk samples from 273 women. At delivery, 96% of the women and 99% of the infants had detectable nevirapine in plasma with a median (interquartile range, IQR) of 1.5 μg/mL (0.75–2.20 μg/mL) and 1.04 μg/mL (0.39–1.71 μg/mL), respectively (P < 0.001). At 1 week postpartum, 93% and 98% of the women had detectable nevirapine in plasma and breast milk, with a median (IQR) of 0.13 μg/mL (0.13–0.39 μg/mL) and 0.22 μg/mL (0.13–0.34 μg/mL), respectively. Maternal plasma and breast milk HIV-1 RNA correlated at all visits (R = 0.48, R = 0.7, R = 0.59; all P = 0.01). Subclinical mastitis was detected in 67% of the women at some time during 6 weeks, and in 38% of the breast milk samples. Breast milk samples with subclinical mastitis had significantly higher HIV-1 RNA at 1, 4 and 6 weeks (all P < 0.05).
Conclusion
After short-course antiretroviral prophylaxis, nevirapine was detectable in most infant cord blood samples and the concentration in maternal plasma and breast milk was high through week 1 accompanied by suppressed HIV-1 RNA in plasma and breast milk.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0121111
PMCID: PMC4374672  PMID: 25812161
7.  α-Defensins in the Prevention of HIV Transmission Among Breastfed Infants 
Summary:
α-Defensins have been observed to have anti-HIV activity but have not been investigated in relation to mother-to-child HIV transmission. We measured the concentration of α-defensins in breast milk of HIV-positive mothers and tested whether the concentrations were associated with HIV transmission. A nested case-control study of 32 HIV-positive women who transmitted HIV to their infants and 52 randomly selected HIV-positive women who did not transmit HIV to their infants was conducted in Lusaka, Zambia. α-Defensins were detected in most (79%) of the milk samples tested. Concentrations of α-defensins increased as breast milk HIV RNA quantity increased, and breast milk HIV RNA quantity was, in turn, a strong and significant predictor of HIV transmission. After adjustment for milk HIV RNA quantity, however, α-defensin concentration was significantly associated with a decreased risk of intrapartum and postnatal HIV transmission (odds ratio = 0.3, 95% confidence interval: 0.09-0.93). Our data suggest that there may be a role for α-defensins in prevention of HIV transmission to breastfed infants.
PMCID: PMC1765920  PMID: 15905728
breast milk; HIV; defensins; transmission
8.  Two-Year Morbidity–Mortality and Alternatives to Prolonged Breast-Feeding among Children Born to HIV-Infected Mothers in Côte d'Ivoire 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(1):e17.
Background
Little is known about the long-term safety of infant feeding interventions aimed at reducing breast milk HIV transmission in Africa.
Methods and Findings
In 2001–2005, HIV-infected pregnant women having received in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, a peripartum antiretroviral prophylaxis were presented antenatally with infant feeding interventions: either artificial feeding, or exclusive breast-feeding and then early cessation from 4 mo of age. Nutritional counseling and clinical management were provided for 2 y. Breast-milk substitutes were provided for free. The primary outcome was the occurrence of adverse health outcomes in children, defined as validated morbid events (diarrhea, acute respiratory infections, or malnutrition) or severe events (hospitalization or death). Hazards ratios to compare formula-fed versus short-term breast-fed (reference) children were adjusted for confounders (baseline covariates and pediatric HIV status as a time-dependant covariate). The 18-mo mortality rates were also compared to those observed in the Ditrame historical trial, which was conducted at the same sites in 1995–1998, and in which long-term breast-feeding was practiced in the absence of any specific infant feeding intervention. Of the 557 live-born children, 262 (47%) were breast-fed for a median of 4 mo, whereas 295 were formula-fed. Over the 2-y follow-up period, 37% of the formula-fed and 34% of the short-term breast-fed children remained free from any adverse health outcome (adjusted hazard ratio [HR]: 1.10; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.87–1.38; p = 0.43). The 2-y probability of presenting with a severe event was the same among formula-fed (14%) and short-term breast-fed children (15%) (adjusted HR, 1.19; 95% CI, 0.75–1.91; p = 0.44). An overall 18-mo probability of survival of 96% was observed among both HIV-uninfected short-term and formula-fed children, which was similar to the 95% probability observed in the long-term breast-fed ones of the Ditrame trial.
Conclusions
The 2-y rates of adverse health outcomes were similar among short-term breast-fed and formula-fed children. Mortality rates did not differ significantly between these two groups and, after adjustment for pediatric HIV status, were similar to those observed among long-term breast-fed children. Given appropriate nutritional counseling and care, access to clean water, and a supply of breast-milk substitutes, these alternatives to prolonged breast-feeding can be safe interventions to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV in urban African settings.
Given appropriate nutritional counseling and care, access to clean water, and supply of breast milk substitutes, replacing prolonged breast-feeding with formula-feeding appears to be a safe intervention to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV in this setting.
Editors' Summary
Background.
The HIV virus can be transmitted from infected mothers to their babies during pregnancy and birth as well as after birth through breast milk. Mother-to-child transmission in developed countries has been all but eliminated by treatment of mothers with the best available combination of antiretroviral drugs and by asking them to avoid breast-feeding. However, in many developing countries, the best drug treatments are not available to mothers. Moreover, breast-feeding is generally the best nutritional choice for infants, especially in areas where resources such as clean water, formula feed, and provision of healthcare are scarce. And even if formula feed is available, formula-fed babies might be at higher risk of dying from diarrhea and chest infections, which are more common in infants who are not breast-fed. International guidelines say that HIV-positive mothers should avoid all breast-feeding and adopt formula feeding instead if this option is practical and safe for them, which would require that they can afford formula feed and have easy access to clean water. If formula-feeding is not feasible, guidelines recommend that mothers should breast-feed only for the first few months and then stop and switch the baby to solid food. One of these two alternative options should be feasible in most African cities if mothers are given the right support.
Why Was This Study Done?
Several completed and ongoing studies are assessing the relative risks and benefits of the two recommended strategies for different developing country locations, and this is one of them. The study, the “Ditrame Plus” trial by researchers from France and Côte d'Ivoire, was conducted in Abidjan, an urban West African setting. The goal was to compare death rates and rates of certain diseases (such as diarrhea and chest infections) between babies born to HIV-positive mothers that were formula-fed and those that were breast-fed for a short time after birth.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
HIV-positive pregnant women were invited to enter the study, and they received short-term drug treatments intended to reduce the risk of HIV transmission to their babies. Women in the trial were then asked to choose one of the two feeding options and offered support and counseling for either one. This support included free formula, transport, and healthcare provision. Babies were followed up to their second birthday, and data were collected on death rates and any serious illnesses. A total of 643 women were enrolled into the study, and safety data were collected for 557 babies, of whom 295 were in the formula group and 262 were in the short-term breast-feeding group. The researchers corrected for HIV infection in the babies and found no evidence that the risk of other negative health outcomes and death rates was any different between the formula-fed babies and short-term breast-fed babies. Looking specifically at individual diseases, the researchers found that the risks for diarrhea and chest infections were slightly higher among formula-fed babies, but this did not translate into a greater risk of death or worse overall health. They also compared the death rates in this study with some historical data from a previous research project done in the same area on children born to HIV-positive mothers who had practiced long-term breast-feeding. The mother-to-child transmission rate of HIV had been much higher in that earlier trial, but looking only at the HIV-negative children, the researchers found no difference in risk for death or serious disease between the formula-fed or short-term breast-fed babies from the Ditrame Plus trial and the long-term breast-fed babies from the earlier trial.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This study shows that if HIV-positive mothers are well supported, either of the two feeding options currently recommended (formula-only feed, or short-term breast-feeding) are likely to be equivalent in terms of the baby's chances for survival and health. However, women in this study were offered a great deal of support and the findings may not necessarily apply to real-life situations in other settings in Africa, or outside the context of a research project. In addition to routine care after birth, access to better drugs to prevent mother-to-child transmission in developing countries remains an important goal.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040017.
Resources from Avert (an AIDS charity) on HIV and infant feeding.
Information from the US Centers for Disease Control on mother-to-child transmission of HIV
Guidelines from the World Health Organization on mother-to-child transmission of HIV
AIDSMap pages on breast-feeding and HIV
HIV Care and PMTCT in Resource-Limited Setting contains monthly bulletins and a database devoted to HIV/AIDS infections and prevention of the mother-to-child transmission of HIV
The Ghent group is a network of researchers and policymakers in the area of prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040017
PMCID: PMC1769413  PMID: 17227132
9.  Infant Feeding Practices Were Not Associated with Breast Milk HIV-1 RNA Levels in a Randomized Clinical Trial in Botswana 
AIDS and behavior  2012;16(5):1260-1264.
Exclusive breastfeeding has been associated with a reduced risk of late vertical HIV transmission as compared to an infant diet composed of breast milk mixed with supplemental foods or liquids. Hypothesized mechanisms include increased infectivity of breast milk from mothers who practice mixed breastfeeding (MBF), or mechanisms such as increased gastrointestinal permeability in the infant caused by mixed feeding. It has been proposed that MBF may result in subclinical mastitis and higher breast milk HIV titers. However, little is known about the relationship between feeding strategy and breast milk viral load. We measured the HIV-1 concentration in breast milk in a sub-cohort of women enrolled in a mother-to-child HIV transmission prevention trial (the "Mashi" study). We report no observed relationship between MBF and measured breast milk viral RNA load. Our findings suggest that the increased transmission risk associated with higher breast milk HIV-1 RNA during MBF is unlikely.
doi:10.1007/s10461-011-0035-7
PMCID: PMC3523667  PMID: 21901486
exclusive; mixed; PMTCT; breast feeding; vertical HIV transmission
10.  HIV: mother-to-child transmission 
BMJ Clinical Evidence  2008;2008:0909.
Introduction
Over 2 million children are thought to be living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, of whom over 80% live in sub-Saharan Africa. Without anti-retroviral treatment, the risk of HIV transmission from infected mothers to their children is 15-30% during gestation or labour, and 15-20% during breast feeding. HIV-1 infection accounts for most infections; HIV-2 is rarely transmitted from mother to child. Transmission is more likely in mothers with high viral loads and/or advanced disease, in the presence of other sexually transmitted diseases, and with increased exposure to maternal blood.
Methods and outcomes
We conducted a systematic review and aimed to answer the following clinical question: What are the effects of measures to reduce mother to child transmission of HIV? We searched: Medline, Embase, The Cochrane Library and other important databases up to January 2007 (BMJ Clinical Evidence reviews are updated periodically, please check our website for the most up-to-date version of this review). We included harms alerts from relevant organisations such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). We performed a GRADE evaluation of the quality of evidence for interventions.
Results
We found 18 systematic reviews, RCTs, or observational studies that met our inclusion criteria.
Conclusions
In this systematic review we present information relating to the effectiveness and safety of the following interventions: antiretroviral drugs, different methods of infant feeding, elective caesarean section, immunotherapy, vaginal microbicides, and vitamin supplements.
Key Points
Without active intervention, the risk of mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV-1 is high, especially in populations where prolonged breast feeding is the norm. Without antiviral treatment, the risk of transmission of HIV from infected mothers to their children is approximately 15-30% during pregnancy and labour, with an additional 10-20% transmission risk attributed to prolonged breast feeding.HIV-2 is rarely transmitted from mother to child.Transmission is more likely in mothers with high viral loads and/or advanced HIV disease.Without antiretroviral treatment (ART), 15-30% of vertically infected infants die within the first year of life.The long-term treatment of children with ART is complicated by multiple concerns regarding the development of resistance, and adverse effects.From a paediatric perspective, successful prevention of MTCT remains the most important focus.
Antiretroviral drugs given to the mother during pregnancy or labour, and/or to the baby immediately after birth, reduce the risk of MTCT of HIV-1.
Reductions in MTCT are possible using simple ART regimens. Longer courses of ART are more effective, but the greatest benefit is derived from treatment during late pregnancy, labour, and early infancy.Suppression of the maternal viral load to undetectable levels (below 50 copies/mL) using highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) offers the greatest risk reduction, and is currently the standard of care offered in most resource-rich countries, where MTCT rates have been reduced to 1-2%. Alternative short-course regimens have been tested in resource-limited settings where HAART is not yet widely available. RCTs demonstrate that short courses of antiretroviral drugs have proven efficacy for reducing MTCT. Identifying optimal short-course regimens (drug combination, timing, and cost effectiveness) for various settings remains a focus for ongoing research.
Avoidance of breast feeding prevents postpartum transmission of HIV, but formula feeding requires access to clean water and health education. The risk of breast feeding-related HIV transmission needs to be balanced against the multiple benefits that breast feeding offers. In resource-poor countries, breast feeding is strongly associated with reduced infant morbidity and improved child survival. Modified breastfeeding practices may reduce the risk of HIV transmission while retaining some of its associated benefits.In settings where formula feeding is not feasible (no clean water, insufficient health education, significant cultural barriers) modified breastfeeding practices may offer the best compromise.Early breast feeding with weaning around age 4-6 months may offer an HIV-free survival benefit compared with either formula, mixed feeding, or prolonged breast feeding.Heat- or microbicidal-treated expressed breast milk may offer value in particular settings.
Elective caesarean section at 38 weeks may reduce vertical transmission rates (apart from breast-milk transmission). The potential benefits of this intervention need to be balanced against the increased risk of surgery-associated complications, high cost, and feasibility issues. These reservations are particularly relevant in resource-limited settings.
Immunotherapy with HIV hyperimmune globulin or immunoglobulin without HIV antibody does not reduce HIV-1 MTCT risk.
Vaginal microbiocides have not been demonstrated to reduce HIV-1 MTCT risk.
There is no evidence that vitamin A or multivitamin supplementation reduces the risk of HIV-1 MTCT or infant mortality.
PMCID: PMC2907958  PMID: 19450331
11.  Genetic Analyses of HIV-1 env Sequences Demonstrate Limited Compartmentalization in Breast Milk and Suggest Viral Replication within the Breast That Increases with Mastitis ▿  
Journal of Virology  2010;84(20):10812-10819.
The concentration of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) is generally lower in breast milk than in blood. Mastitis, or inflammation of the breast, is associated with increased levels of milk HIV-1 and risk of mother-to-child transmission through breastfeeding. We hypothesized that mastitis facilitates the passage of HIV-1 from blood into milk or stimulates virus production within the breast. HIV-1 env sequences were generated from single amplicons obtained from breast milk and blood samples in a cross-sectional study. Viral compartmentalization was evaluated using several statistical methods, including the Slatkin and Maddison (SM) test. Mastitis was defined as an elevated milk sodium (Na+) concentration. The association between milk Na+ and the pairwise genetic distance between milk and blood viral sequences was modeled using linear regression. HIV-1 was compartmentalized within milk by SM testing in 6/17 (35%) specimens obtained from 9 women, but all phylogenetic clades included viral sequences from milk and blood samples. Monotypic sequences were more prevalent in milk samples than in blood samples (22% versus 13%; P = 0.012), which accounted for half of the compartmentalization observed. Mastitis was not associated with compartmentalization by SM testing (P = 0.621), but Na+ was correlated with greater genetic distance between milk and blood HIV-1 populations (P = 0.041). In conclusion, local production of HIV-1 within the breast is suggested by compartmentalization of virus and a higher prevalence of monotypic viruses in milk specimens. However, phylogenetic trees demonstrate extensive mixing of viruses between milk and blood specimens. HIV-1 replication in breast milk appears to increase with inflammation, contributing to higher milk viral loads during mastitis.
doi:10.1128/JVI.00543-10
PMCID: PMC2950573  PMID: 20660189
12.  Mother to child transmission of HIV among Zimbabwean women who seroconverted postnatally: prospective cohort study 
Objectives To estimate the rates and timing of mother to infant transmission of HIV associated with breast feeding in mothers who seroconvert postnatally, and their breast milk and plasma HIV loads during and following seroconversion, compared with women who tested HIV positive at delivery.
Design Prospective cohort study.
Setting Urban Zimbabwe.
Participants 14 110 women and infants enrolled in the Zimbabwe Vitamin A for Mothers and Babies (ZVITAMBO) trial (1997-2001).
Main outcome measures Mother to child transmission of HIV, and breast milk and maternal plasma HIV load during the postpartum period.
Results Among mothers who tested HIV positive at baseline and whose infant tested HIV negative with polymerase chain reaction (PCR) at six weeks (n=2870), breastfeeding associated transmission was responsible for an average of 8.96 infant infections per 100 child years of breast feeding (95% CI 7.92 to 10.14) and varied little over the breastfeeding period. Breastfeeding associated transmission for mothers who seroconverted postnatally (n=334) averaged 34.56 infant infections per 100 child years (95% CI 26.60 to 44.91) during the first nine months after maternal infection, declined to 9.50 (95% CI 3.07 to 29.47) during the next three months, and was zero thereafter. Among women who seroconverted postnatally and in whom the precise timing of infection was known (≤90 days between last negative and first positive test; n=51), 62% (8/13) of transmissions occurred in the first three months after maternal infection and breastfeeding associated transmission was 4.6 times higher than in mothers who tested HIV positive at baseline and whose infant tested HIV negative with PCR at six weeks. Median plasma HIV concentration in all mothers who seroconverted postnatally declined from 5.0 log10 copies/mL at the last negative enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) to 4.1 log10 copies/mL at 9-12 months after infection. Breast milk HIV load in this group was 4.3 log10 copies/mL 0-30 days after infection, but rapidly declined to 2.0 log10 copies/mL and <1.5 log10 copies/mL by 31-90 days and more than 90 days, respectively. Among women whose plasma sample collected soon after delivery tested negative for HIV with ELISA but positive with PCR (n=17), 75% of their infants were infected or had died by 12 months. An estimated 18.6% to 20.4% of all breastfeeding associated transmission observed in the ZVITAMBO trial occurred among mothers who seroconverted postnatally.
Conclusions Breastfeeding associated transmission is high during primary maternal HIV infection and is mirrored by a high but transient peak in breast milk HIV load. Around two thirds of breastfeeding associated transmission by women who seroconvert postnatally may occur while the mother is still in the “window period” of an antibody based test, when she would test HIV negative using one of these tests.
Trial registration Clinical trials.gov NCT00198718.
doi:10.1136/bmj.c6580
PMCID: PMC3007097  PMID: 21177735
13.  Longitudinal Analysis of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 RNA in Breast Milk and of Its Relationship to Infant Infection and Maternal Disease 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2003;187(5):741-747.
Transmission of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) via breast-feeding can occur throughout lactation. Defining both fluctuation in breast-milk virus level over time and how breast-milk virus correlates with mother-to-child transmission is important for establishing effective interventions. We quantified breast-milk HIV-1 RNA levels in serial samples collected from 275 women for up to 2 years after delivery. Higher maternal plasma virus load, lower maternal CD4 T cell count, and detection of HIV-1 DNA in maternal genital secretions were significantly associated with elevated breast-milk HIV-1 RNA. Within women who breast-fed, median virus load in colostrum/early milk was significantly higher than that in mature breast milk collected 14 days after delivery (P ≤ .004). Breast-feeding mothers who transmitted HIV-1 to their infants had both significantly higher breast-milk viral RNA throughout lactation and more-consistent viral shedding, compared with mothers who did not transmit HIV-1. In breast-feeding women, a 2-fold-increased risk of transmission was associated with every 10-fold increase in breast-milk virus load (95% confidence interval, 1.3–3.0; P < .001). These results indicate that the risk of infant infection from breast-feeding is influenced by breast-milk virus load, which is highest early after delivery.
doi:10.1086/374273
PMCID: PMC3384731  PMID: 12599047
14.  Temporal and Lateral Dynamics of HIV Shedding and Elevated Sodium in Breast Milk Among HIV-Positive Mothers During the First 4 Months of Breast-Feeding 
Objective
To better understand the dynamics of breast milk HIV shedding and its relation to postnatal HIV transmission, we investigated the temporal and lateral relations of breast milk viral shedding and sodium concentrations in HIV-positive women.
Design
This was a longitudinal cohort study in Lusaka, Zambia.
Method
We examined patterns of HIV shedding in breast milk over the first 4 months of breast-feeding and their correlations with postnatal HIV transmission among 138 breast-feeding mothers. Sodium concentration in breast milk was also examined in the same samples and in breast milk from 23 HIV-negative controls.
Results
Higher breast milk viral load at 1 week, 1 month, and 4 months and consistent viral shedding in breast milk were significantly associated with increased risk of HIV transmission. Elevated breast milk sodium concentration ($13 mmol/L) at 4 months was associated with HIV transmission, low maternal CD4 cell count, and high maternal plasma viral load. Elevated sodium concentration at 1 week postpartum was common and was not associated with any of these parameters.
Conclusions
Consistent viral shedding and high breast milk viral load are strong predictors of mother-to-child HIV transmission. Although sodium concentrations later in breast-feeding correlate with breast milk viral load, increased breast milk sodium is normal in early lactation and does not predict HIV transmission.
PMCID: PMC2821877  PMID: 18398972
breast-feeding; breast milk sodium; HIV; lactation; mastitis; mother-to-child transmission; viral load
15.  Cumulative Exposure to Cell-Free HIV in Breast Milk, Rather Than Feeding Pattern per se, Identifies Postnatally Infected Infants 
In a nested case-control study, postnatal HIV infection was strongly associated with cumulative HIV RNA breastmilk exposure, even after allowing for maternal CD4 and plasma viral load; cases ingested approximately 15 times more HIV-1 RNA particles than controls.
Background. We quantified the relationship between human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) RNA shedding in breast milk, cumulative RNA exposure, and postnatal transmission, relating timing of infection in the infant to estimated total volume of milk exposure.
Methods. Nested case-control study of 36 infants of HIV-infected mothers. Case patients were infants who acquired HIV infection through breastfeeding from age 6 through 28 weeks, and control subjects were uninfected infants matched on age at obtainment of a breast milk sample. Mothers and infants received peripartum single-dose nevirapine prophylaxis. Feeding data were collected daily; breast milk samples were collected and infant anthropometry was performed at 6 weeks and monthly thereafter. Volume of milk ingested was estimated using infant weight and feeding pattern.
Results. Before HIV acquisition in case patients, feeding pattern (exclusive breastfeeding; median duration, 65 vs 70 days; P = .6) and daily milk intake (mean volume, 638 vs 637 mL; P = .97) did not differ significantly between case patients and control subjects. Case mothers were more likely to shed virus (64% vs 9% always, 22% vs 20.5% intermittently, 14% vs 70.5% never shed; overall, P < .001). Case patients ingested ∼15 times more HIV-1 RNA particles than did control subjects (196.5 vs 13 × 106 copies; P < .001). Allowing for maternal antenatal CD4 cell count and plasma HIV-1 load, child sex and duration of mixed breastfeeding, the association between HIV RNA exposure and infection remained statistically significant (P < .001).
Conclusions. Postnatal acquisition of HIV-1 is more strongly associated with cumulative exposure to cell-free particles in breast milk than with feeding mode. Reducing breast milk viral load through antiretroviral therapy to mother or child can further decrease postnatal transmission in exclusively breastfed infants.
doi:10.1093/cid/ciq203
PMCID: PMC3049337  PMID: 21367736
16.  Dynamics of breast milk HIV-1 RNA with unilateral mastitis or abscess 
Background
Mastitis and abscess in HIV-infected women increase risk of breastfeeding transmission of HIV. Guidelines encourage women to stop breastfeeding on the affected breast and feed on the contralateral breast. However, impact of breast pathology on breast milk HIV dynamics is unknown.
Methods
HIV RNA was quantified in 211 breast milk samples collected before, during and after a clinical mastitis or abscess diagnosis from 38 HIV-infected women participating in a Zambian breastfeeding study. HIV RNA quantity was compared between affected and unaffected breasts over time using generalized estimating equation models. A sample of 115 women without breast pathology was selected as a control group.
Results
In the affected breast, breast milk HIV RNA quantity increased from the pre- to during-pathology period by log10 0.45 copies/mL (95% CI: 0.16, 0.74) and after symptom resolution, HIV RNA levels were no different from pre-pathology levels (log10 -0.04 copies/mL 95%CI: -0.33, 0.25). In the contralateral unaffected breast, HIV RNA quantity did not significantly increase (log10 0.15 copies/mL, 95% CI: -0.41, 0.10). Increase was more marked in women with abscess or with a greater number of mastitis symptoms. HIV RNA was not significantly different between affected and unaffected women, except at the time of diagnosis.
Conclusions
Breast milk HIV RNA increased modestly in the affected breast with unilateral mastitis or abscess and returned to pre-pathology levels with symptom resolution. Contralateral HIV RNA was not affected. Results support guidelines encouraging feeding from the contralateral breast to minimize risk of HIV transmission associated with unilateral breast pathology.
doi:10.1097/QAI.0b013e31827e64d4
PMCID: PMC3647002  PMID: 23202812
Infant feeding; HIV; Exclusive breastfeeding; Breast problem; Mastitis; Abscess
17.  HIV-Specific Antibodies Capable of ADCC Are Common in Breastmilk and Are Associated with Reduced Risk of Transmission in Women with High Viral Loads 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(6):e1002739.
There are limited data describing the functional characteristics of HIV-1 specific antibodies in breast milk (BM) and their role in breastfeeding transmission. The ability of BM antibodies to bind HIV-1 envelope, neutralize heterologous and autologous viruses and direct antibody-dependent cell cytotoxicity (ADCC) were analyzed in BM and plasma obtained soon after delivery from 10 non-transmitting and 9 transmitting women with high systemic viral loads and plasma neutralizing antibodies (NAbs). Because subtype A is the dominant subtype in this cohort, a subtype A envelope variant that was sensitive to plasma NAbs was used to assess the different antibody activities. We found that NAbs against the subtype A heterologous virus and/or the woman's autologous viruses were rare in IgG and IgA purified from breast milk supernatant (BMS) – only 4 of 19 women had any detectable NAb activity against either virus. Detected NAbs were of low potency (median IC50 value of 10 versus 647 for the corresponding plasma) and were not associated with infant infection (p = 0.58). The low NAb activity in BMS versus plasma was reflected in binding antibody levels: HIV-1 envelope specific IgG titers were 2.2 log10 lower (compared to 0.59 log10 lower for IgA) in BMS versus plasma. In contrast, antibodies capable of ADCC were common and could be detected in the BMS from all 19 women. BMS envelope-specific IgG titers were associated with both detection of IgG NAbs (p = 0.0001)and BMS ADCC activity (p = 0.014). Importantly, BMS ADCC capacity was inversely associated with infant infection risk (p = 0.039). Our findings indicate that BMS has low levels of envelope specific IgG and IgA with limited neutralizing activity. However, this small study of women with high plasma viral loads suggests that breastmilk ADCC activity is a correlate of transmission that may impact infant infection risk.
Author Summary
In the absence of intervention, only about one third of infants born to HIV-1 infected mothers who are continuously exposed to maternal breast milk over prolonged periods get infected. This observation raises the possibility that immune factors in infected women play a role in limiting HIV-1 transmission. Identifying factors associated with reduced HIV-1 transmission risk will improve our understanding on the potential correlates of protection that should be the focus of generating effective immunogens and vaccination protocols. Here we assessed the functional role of breast milk antibodies in a group of women with high plasma viral loads and systemic NAbs and determined that overall, breast milk contains low levels of neutralizing antibodies when compared to plasma. In contrast, we observed a robust non-neutralizing activity in breast milk that was associated with infant infection status. Our study adds to the growing evidence of a potential role of non-neutralizing antibodies in limiting HIV-1 transmission and calls for more attention to this arm of the HIV-1 response.
doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1002739
PMCID: PMC3375288  PMID: 22719248
18.  Antiretroviral Treatment and Prevention of Peripartum and Postnatal HIV Transmission in West Africa: Evaluation of a Two-Tiered Approach 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(8):e257.
Background
Highly active antiretroviral treatment (HAART) has only been recently recommended for HIV-infected pregnant women requiring treatment for their own health in resource-limited settings. However, there are few documented experiences from African countries. We evaluated the short-term (4 wk) and long-term (12 mo) effectiveness of a two-tiered strategy of prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) in Africa: women meeting the eligibility criteria of the World Health Organization (WHO) received HAART, and women with less advanced HIV disease received short-course antiretroviral (scARV) PMTCT regimens.
Methods and Findings
The MTCT-Plus Initiative is a multi-country, family-centred HIV care and treatment program for pregnant and postpartum women and their families. Pregnant women enrolled in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire received either HAART for their own health or short-course antiretroviral (scARV) PMTCT regimens according to their clinical and immunological status. Plasma HIV-RNA viral load (VL) was measured to diagnose peripartum infection when infants were 4 wk of age, and HIV final status was documented either by rapid antibody testing when infants were aged ≥ 12 mo or by plasma VL earlier. The Kaplan-Meier method was used to estimate the rate of HIV transmission and HIV-free survival. Between August 2003 and June 2005, 107 women began HAART at a median of 30 wk of gestation, 102 of them with zidovudine (ZDV), lamivudine (3TC), and nevirapine (NVP) and they continued treatment postpartum; 143 other women received scARV for PMTCT, 103 of them with sc(ZDV+3TC) with single-dose NVP during labour. Most (75%) of the infants were breast-fed for a median of 5 mo. Overall, the rate of peripartum HIV transmission was 2.2% (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.3%–4.2%) and the cumulative rate at 12 mo was 5.7% (95% CI 2.5%–9.0%). The overall probability of infant death or infection with HIV was 4.3% (95% CI 1.7%–7.0%) at age week 4 wk and 11.7% (95% CI 7.5%–15.9%) at 12 mo.
Conclusions
This two-tiered strategy appears to be safe and highly effective for short- and long-term PMTCT in resource-constrained settings. These results indicate a further benefit of access to HAART for pregnant women who need treatment for their own health.
In an observational cohort study from Côte d'Ivoire, François Dabis and colleagues report on prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission among women receiving antiretroviral therapy according to World Health Organization recommendations.
Editors' Summary
Background
Effective treatments are available to prevent AIDS in people who are infected with HIV, but not everyone with HIV needs to take medication. Usually, anti-HIV medication is recommended only for those whose immune systems have been significantly affected by the virus, as evidenced by symptoms or by the results of a blood test, the CD4 lymphocyte (“T cell”) count. Treating HIV usually requires a combination of three or more medications. These combinations (called HAART) must be taken every day, can cause complications, and can be expensive.
Worldwide, more than half a million children became infected with HIV each year. Most of these children acquire HIV from their mothers during pregnancy or around the time of birth. If a pregnant woman with HIV takes HAART, her chances of passing HIV to the baby are greatly reduced, but the possible side effects of HAART on the baby are not known. Also, most transmission of HIV from mothers to babies occurs in poor countries where supplies of HAART are limited. For these reasons, World Health Organization (WHO) does not recommend that every pregnant woman receive HAART to prevent HIV transmission to the baby, unless the woman needs HAART for her own health (for example if her T cells are low or she has severe symptoms of HIV infection). For pregnant women with HIV who do not need to take HAART for their own health, less complicated treatments, involving a short course of one or two HIV drugs, can be used to reduce the risk of passing HIV to the baby.
Why Was This Study Done?
The WHO recommendations for HAART in pregnancy are based on the best available evidence, but it is important to know how well they work in actual practice. The authors of this study were providing HIV treatment to pregnant women with HIV in West Africa through an established clinic program in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, and wanted to see how well the WHO recommendations for HAART or short-course treatments, depending on the mother's condition, were working to protect babies from HIV infection.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers studied 250 HIV-infected pregnant women who received HIV medications in the Abidjan program between mid-2003 and mid-2005. In accordance with WHO guidelines, 107 women began HAART for their own health during pregnancy, and 143 women did not qualify for HAART but received other short course treatments (scARV) to prevent HIV transmission to their babies. The authors monitored mothers and babies for treatment side effects and tested the babies for HIV infection up to age 1 y.
They found that HAART was relatively safe during pregnancy, although babies born to women on HAART were more likely (26.3%) to have low birth weight than babies born to women who received scARV (12.4%). Also, 7.5% of women on HAART developed side effects requiring a change in their medications. Combining the results from HAART and scART groups, the chance of HIV transmission around the time of birth was 2.2%, increasing to 5.7% at age 1 y. (Three-quarters of the infants were breast-fed; safe water for mixing formula was not reliably available.) The study found no difference in risk of HIV infection between babies whose mothers received HAART and those whose mothers received scARV according to guidelines.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These results support the safety and effectiveness of the WHO two-tiered approach for preventing mother-to-child transmission. This study was not designed to compare HAART to scART directly, because the women who received HAART were the ones with more advanced HIV infection, which might have affected their babies in many ways.
Compared to earlier pregnancy studies of HAART in rich countries, this study of the WHO approach in West Africa showed similar success in protecting infants from HIV infection around the time of birth. Unfortunately, because formula feeding was not generally available in resource-limited settings, protection declined over the first year of life with breast-feeding, but some protection remained.
This study confirms that close monitoring of pregnant women on HAART is necessary, so that drugs can be changed if side effects develop. The study does not tell us whether using scARV in pregnancy might change the virus in ways that would make it more difficult to treat the same women with HAART later if they needed it. The reason for low birth weight in some babies born to mothers on HAART is unclear. It may be because the women who needed HAART had more severe health problems from their HIV, or it may be a result of the HAART itself.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040257.
World Health Organization has a page on prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV
“Women, Children, and HIV” is a resource site from the François Xavier Bagnoud Center and UCSF
The MTCT-Plus initiative at Columbia University supports the programs in Abidjan
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040257
PMCID: PMC1949842  PMID: 17713983
19.  HIV-1 persists in breast milk cells despite antiretroviral treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission 
AIDS (London, England)  2008;22(12):1475-1485.
Background
The effects of short-course antiretrovirals given to reduce mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) on temporal patterns of cell-associated HIV-1 RNA and DNA in breast milk are not well defined.
Methods
Women in Kenya received short-course zidovudine (ZDV), single-dose nevirapine (sdNVP), combination ZDV/sdNVP or short-course highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). Breast milk samples were collected two to three times weekly for 4–6 weeks. HIV-1 DNA was quantified by real-time PCR. Cell-free and cell-associated RNA levels were quantified by the Gen-Probe HIV-1 viral load assay.
Results
Cell-free HIV-1 RNA levels in breast milk were significantly suppressed by sdNVP, ZDV/sdNVP or HAART therapy compared with ZDV between day 3 and week 4 postpartum (P ≤ 0.03). Breast milk HIV-1 DNA levels (infected cell levels) were not significantly different between treatment arms at any timepoint during the 4–6-week follow-up. At 3 weeks postpartum, when the difference in cell-free RNA levels was the greatest comparing HAART directly with ZDV (P = 0.0001), median log10 HIV-1 DNA copies per 1 × 106 cells were 2.78, 2.54, 2.69, and 2.31 in the ZDV, sdNVP, ZDV/sdNVP and HAART arms, respectively (P = 0.23). Cell-associated HIV-1 RNA levels were modestly suppressed in HAART versus ZDV/sdNVP during week 3 (3.37 versus 4.02, P = 0.04), as well as over time according to a linear mixed-effects model.
Conclusion
Cell-free and, to a lesser extent, cell-associated HIV-1 RNA levels in breast milk were suppressed by antiretroviral regimens used to prevent MTCT. However, even with HAART, there was no significant reduction in the reservoir of infected cells, which could contribute to breast milk HIV-1 transmission.
doi:10.1097/QAD.0b013e328302cc11
PMCID: PMC2765916  PMID: 18614871
antiretrovirals; breast milk; cell associated; HIV; vertical transmission; viral load
20.  Breast milk HIV-1 suppression and decreased transmission: a randomized trial comparing HIVNET 012 nevirapine versus short-course zidovudine 
AIDS (London, England)  2005;19(13):1415-1422.
Objective
To compare the effect of perinatal regimens of short-course nevirapine (HIVNET 012) and zidovudine [Thai-Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regimen] on breast milk viral shedding and perinatal transmission during the first 6 weeks postpartum in a randomized clinical trial.
Design
Randomized clinical trial.
Methods
Pregnant HIV-1 seropositive women in Nairobi, Kenya who planned to breastfeed were randomized to HIVNET 012 or Thai-CDC regimens. Two to four breast milk samples were collected each week between delivery and 6 weeks postpartum. Breast milk HIV-1 RNA was quantified using the Gen-Probe TMA assay. Infants were tested for HIV-1 DNA at birth and 6 weeks.
Results
From March to October 2003, 76 women were enrolled and 795 breast milk samples were collected from 60 women who were randomized and followed after delivery. Between 3 and 21 days postpartum, nevirapine was associated with significantly greater suppression of breast milk log10 HIV-1 RNA: days 3 to 7 (1.98 versus 2.42, P = 0.1); days 8 to 14 (1.78 versus 2.48, P = 0.005); days 15 to 21 (1.90 versus 2.97, P = 0.003). At 6 weeks, the HIV-1 perinatal transmission rate was significantly lower among those who took nevirapine than zidovudine (6.8% versus 30.3%, P = 0.02).
Conclusions
Compared to a peripartum zidovudine regimen, nevirapine was significantly more likely to decrease HIV-1 RNA in breast milk during the first week and through the third week postpartum following single-dose administration, and corresponded with decreased transmission risk at 6 weeks. Sustained breast milk HIV-1 suppression may contribute to the ability of nevirapine to decrease perinatal transmission of HIV-1.
PMCID: PMC3381340  PMID: 16103773
Africa; vertical transmission; mother-to-child transmission; HIV-1; perinatal transmission; nevirapine; zidovudine
21.  Potent SIV-specific Cellular Immune Responses in the Breast Milk of SIV-infected, Lactating Rhesus Monkeys1 
Breast milk transmission of HIV is a leading cause of infant HIV/AIDS in the developing world. Remarkably, only a small minority of breastfeeding infants born to HIV-infected mothers contract HIV via breast milk exposure, raising the possibility that immune factors in the breast milk confer protection to the infants who remain uninfected. To model HIV-specific immunity in breast milk, lactation was pharmacologically induced in Mamu-A*01+ female rhesus monkeys. The composition of lymphocyte subsets in hormone-induced lactation (HIL) breast milk was found to be similar to that in natural lactation (NL) breast milk. Hormone-induced lactating monkeys were inoculated intravenously with SIVmac251 and CD8+ T lymphocytes specific for two immunodominant SIV epitopes, Gag p11C and Tat TL8, and SIV viral load were monitored in peripheral blood and breast milk during acute infection. The breast milk viral load was one to two logs lower than plasma viral load through peak and set-point of viremia. Surprisingly, while the kinetics of the SIV-specific cellular immunity in breast milk mirrored that of the blood, the peak magnitude of the SIV-specific CD8+ T lymphocyte response in breast milk was more than twice as high as the cellular immune response in the blood. Furthermore, the appearance of the SIV-specific CD8+ T lymphocyte response in breast milk was associated with a reduction in breast milk viral load, and this response remained higher than that in the blood after viral set point. This robust viral-specific cellular immune response in breast milk may contribute to control of breast milk virus replication.
PMCID: PMC2593904  PMID: 18714039
AIDS; T cells; Cytotoxic; Mucosa
22.  Independent Effects of Nevirapine Prophylaxis and HIV-1 RNA Suppression in Breast Milk on Early Perinatal HIV-1 Transmission 
Background
The mechanism of action of single-dose nevirapine on reducing mother-to-child transmission of HIV-1 may involve reduction of maternal HIV-1 or prophylaxis of infants.
Methods
In a study that randomized pregnant mothers to HIVNET 012 nevirapine versus short-course antenatal zidovudine, we compared breast milk HIV-1 RNA viral shedding and administration of single-dose nevirapine between mothers who transmitted HIV-1 to their infants at 6 weeks postpartum and those who did not.
Results
In multivariate analyses, maximum breast milk HIV-1 RNA levels (hazard ratio [HR] = 2.50, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.25 to 4.99; P = 0.01) and nevirapine use (HR = 0.12, 95% CI: 0.02 to 0.97; P = 0.05) were each independently associated with perinatal transmission at 6 weeks postpartum. Mothers who transmitted HIV-1 to their infants had significantly higher HIV-1 RNA levels in their breast milk between the second day and sixth week postpartum. Among mothers with maximum breast milk virus levels less than a median of 3.5 log10 copies/mL, the administration of nevirapine further decreased HIV-1 transmission risk from 22.2% to 0.0% (P = 0.04).
Conclusions
Peripartum administration of single-dose nevirapine to mother and infant decreases early perinatal HIV-1 transmission by means of breast milk HIV-1 RNA suppression and, independently, by providing the infant with exposure prophylaxis.
PMCID: PMC3310242  PMID: 18077838
Africa; breast milk; HIV-1; mother-to-child transmission; nevirapine; prevention of perinatal transmission
23.  Effectiveness of Non-nucleoside Reverse-Transcriptase Inhibitor-Based Antiretroviral Therapy in Women Previously Exposed to a Single Intrapartum Dose of Nevirapine: A Multi-country, Prospective Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(2):e1000233.
In a comparative cohort study, Jeffrey Stringer and colleagues investigate the risk of ART failure in women who received single-dose nevirapine for PMTCT, and assess the duration of increased risk.
Background
Intrapartum and neonatal single-dose nevirapine (NVP) reduces the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission but also induces viral resistance to non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI) drugs. This drug resistance largely fades over time. We hypothesized that women with a prior single-dose NVP exposure would have no more than a 10% higher cumulative prevalence of failure of their NNRTI-containing antiretroviral therapy (ART) over the first 48 wk of therapy than would women without a prior exposure.
Methods and Findings
We enrolled 355 NVP-exposed and 523 NVP-unexposed women at two sites in Zambia, one site in Kenya, and two sites in Thailand into a prospective, non-inferiority cohort study and followed them for 48 wk on ART. Those who died, discontinued NNRTI-containing ART, or had a plasma viral load ≥400 copies/ml at either the 24 wk or 48 wk study visits and confirmed on repeat testing were characterized as having failed therapy. Overall, 114 of 355 NVP-exposed women (32.1%) and 132 of 523 NVP-unexposed women (25.2%) met criteria for treatment failure. The difference in failure rates between the exposure groups was 6.9% (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.8%–13.0%). The failure rates of women stratified by our predefined exposure interval categories were as follows: 47 of 116 women in whom less than 6 mo elapsed between exposure and starting ART failed therapy (40%; p<0.001 compared to unexposed women); 25 of 67 women in whom 7–12 mo elapsed between exposure and starting ART failed therapy (37%; p = 0.04 compared to unexposed women); and 42 of 172 women in whom more than 12 mo elapsed between exposure and starting ART failed therapy (24%; p = 0.82 compared to unexposed women). Locally weighted regression analysis also indicated a clear inverse relationship between virologic failure and the exposure interval.
Conclusions
Prior exposure to single-dose NVP was associated with an increased risk of treatment failure; however, this risk seems largely confined to women with a more recent exposure. Women requiring ART within 12 mo of NVP exposure should not be prescribed an NNRTI-containing regimen as first-line therapy.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) kills nearly 300,000 children. At the end of 2008, 2.1 million children were positive for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the cause of AIDS, and in that year alone more than 400,000 children were newly infected with HIV. Most HIV-positive children acquire the virus from their mothers during pregnancy or birth or through breastfeeding, so-called mother-to-child transmission (MTCT). Without intervention, 15%–30% of babies born to HIV-positive women become infected with HIV during pregnancy and delivery, and a further 5%–20% become infected through breastfeeding. These rates of infection can be greatly reduced by treating the mother and her newborn baby with antiretroviral drugs. A single dose of nevirapine (a “non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor” or NNRTI) given to the mother at the start of labor and to the baby soon after birth reduces the risk of MTCT by nearly a half; a further reduction in risk can be achieved by giving the mother and her baby additional antiretroviral drugs during pregnancy, around the time of birth, and while breast-feeding.
Why Was This Study Done?
Single-dose nevirapine is the mainstay of MTCT prevention programs in many poor countries but can induce resistance to nevirapine and to other NNRTIs. The drugs used to treat HIV infections fall into several different classes defined by how they stop viral growth. HIV can become resistant to any of these drugs and a virus strain that is resistant to one member of a drug class is often also resistant to other members of the same class. Because most first-line antiretroviral therapies (ARTs; cocktails of antiretroviral drugs) used in developing countries contain an NNRTI and because HIV-positive mothers eventually need ART to safeguard their own health, the resistance to NNRTIs that is induced in women by single-dose nevirapine might decrease the chances that ART will work for them later. In this multi-country, prospective cohort study, the researchers compare the effectiveness of NNRTI-containing ART in a group (cohort) of women previously exposed to single-dose nevirapine during childbirth to its effectiveness in a group of unexposed women. They also investigate whether the length of time between nevirapine exposure and ART initiation affects ART effectiveness.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers enrolled 355 HIV-positive nevirapine-exposed women and 523 HIV-positive nevirapine-unexposed women in Zambia, Kenya, and Thailand who were just starting NNRTI-containing ART and followed them for 48 weeks. They defined ART failure as death, discontinuation of NNRTI-containing ART, or a high virus load in the blood (virologic failure) at 24 or 48 weeks. ART failed in nearly a third of the nevirapine-exposed women but in only a quarter of the nevirapine-unexposed women. Women who began ART within 6 months of taking single-dose nevirapine to prevent MTCT were twice as likely to experience ART failure as women not exposed to single-dose nevirapine. Women who began ART 7–12 months after single-dose nevirapine had a slightly increased risk of ART failure compared to unexposed women but this increased risk was not statistically significant; that is, it could have occurred by chance. Women who began ART more than 12 months after single-dose nevirapine did not have an increased risk of ART failure compared to unexposed women. Finally, the researchers used a statistical method called locally weighted regression analysis to confirm that an increase in the interval between single-dose nevirapine and ART initiation decreased the risk of virologic failure.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings, which confirm and extend the results of previous studies and which are likely to be generalizable to other resource-poor countries, indicate that single-dose nevirapine given to women to prevent MTCT increases their risk of subsequent ART failure. More positively, they also show that this increased failure risk is largely confined to women who begin ART within a year of exposure to nevirapine. Because of the study design, it is possible that the nevirapine-exposed women share some additional, undefined characteristic that makes them more likely to fail ART than unexposed women. Even so, these findings suggest that, provided NNRTI-containing ART is not given to HIV-positive women within a year of nevirapine exposure, single-dose nevirapine can be safely used to prevent MTCT without compromising the mother's future antiretroviral treatment options.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000233.
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS, on treatments for HIV/AIDS, and on HIV infection in infants and children
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on children, HIV, and AIDS and on preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV (in English and Spanish)
UNICEF also has information about children and HIV and AIDS (in several languages)
The World Health Organization has information on mother-to-child transmission of HIV
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000233
PMCID: PMC2821896  PMID: 20169113
24.  Triple-Antiretroviral Prophylaxis to Prevent Mother-To-Child HIV Transmission through Breastfeeding—The Kisumu Breastfeeding Study, Kenya: A Clinical Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(3):e1001015.
Timothy Thomas and colleagues report the results of the Kisumu breastfeeding study (Kenya), a single-arm trial that assessed the feasibility and safety of a triple-antiretroviral regimen to suppress maternal HIV load in late pregnancy.
Background
Effective strategies are needed for the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT) in resource-limited settings. The Kisumu Breastfeeding Study was a single-arm open label trial conducted between July 2003 and February 2009. The overall aim was to investigate whether a maternal triple-antiretroviral regimen that was designed to maximally suppress viral load in late pregnancy and the first 6 mo of lactation was a safe, well-tolerated, and effective PMTCT intervention.
Methods and Findings
HIV-infected pregnant women took zidovudine, lamivudine, and either nevirapine or nelfinavir from 34–36 weeks' gestation to 6 mo post partum. Infants received single-dose nevirapine at birth. Women were advised to breastfeed exclusively and wean rapidly just before 6 mo. Using Kaplan-Meier methods we estimated HIV-transmission and death rates from delivery to 24 mo. We compared HIV-transmission rates among subgroups defined by maternal risk factors, including baseline CD4 cell count and viral load.
Among 487 live-born, singleton, or first-born infants, cumulative HIV-transmission rates at birth, 6 weeks, and 6, 12, and 24 mo were 2.5%, 4.2%, 5.0%, 5.7%, and 7.0%, respectively. The 24-mo HIV-transmission rates stratified by baseline maternal CD4 cell count <500 and ≥500 cells/mm3 were 8.4% (95% confidence interval [CI] 5.8%–12.0%) and 4.1% (1.8%–8.8%), respectively (p = 0.06); the corresponding rates stratified by baseline maternal viral load <10,000 and ≥10,000 copies/ml were 3.0% (1.1%–7.8%) and 8.7% (6.1%–12.3%), respectively (p = 0.01). None of the 12 maternal and 51 infant deaths (including two second-born infants) were attributed to antiretrovirals. The cumulative HIV-transmission or death rate at 24 mo was 15.7% (95% CI 12.7%–19.4%).
Conclusions
This trial shows that a maternal triple-antiretroviral regimen from late pregnancy through 6 months of breastfeeding for PMTCT is safe and feasible in a resource-limited setting. These findings are consistent with those from other trials using maternal triple-antiretroviral regimens during breastfeeding in comparable settings.
Trial registration
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00146380
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, about half a million children become infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Nearly all these newly infected children live in resource-limited countries and most acquire HIV from their mother, so-called mother-to-child transmission (MTCT). Without intervention, 25%–50% of babies born to HIV-positive mothers become infected with HIV during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding. This infection rate can be reduced by treating mother and child with antiretroviral (ARV) drugs. A single dose of nevirapine (a “non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor” or NNRTI) given to the mother at the start of labor and to her baby soon after birth nearly halves the risk of MTCT. Further reductions in risk can be achieved by giving mother and baby three ARVs—an NNRTI and two nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs such as zidovudine and lamivudine)—during pregnancy and perinatally (around the time of birth).
Why Was This Study Done?
Breastfeeding is crucial for child survival in poor countries but it is also responsible for up to half of MTCT. Consequently, many researchers are investigating how various ARV regimens given to mothers and/or their infants during the first few months of life as well as during pregnancy and perinatally affect MTCT. In this single-arm trial, the researchers assess the feasibility and safety of using a triple-ARV regimen to suppress the maternal HIV load (amount of virus in the blood) from late pregnancy though 6 months of breastfeeding among HIV-positive women in Kisumu, Kenya, and ask whether this approach achieves a lower HIV transmission rate than other ARV regimens that have been tested in resource-limited settings. In a single-arm trial, all the participants are given the same treatment. By contrast, in a “randomized controlled” trial, half the participants chosen at random are given the treatment under investigation and the rest are given a control treatment. A randomized controlled trial provides a better comparison of treatments than a single-arm trial but is more costly.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In the Kisumu Breastfeeding Study (KiBS), HIV-infected pregnant women took a triple-ARV regimen containing zidovudine and lamivudine and either nevirapine or the protease inhibitor nelfinavir from 34–36 weeks of pregnancy to 6 months after delivery. They were advised to breastfeed their babies (who received single-dose nevirapine at birth), and to wean them rapidly just before 6 months. The researchers then used Kaplan-Meier statistical methods to estimate HIV transmission and death rates among 487 live-born infants from delivery to 24 months. The cumulative HIV transmission rate rose from 2.5% at birth to 7.0% at 24 months. The cumulative HIV transmission or death rate at 24 months was 15.7%; no infant deaths were attributed to ARVs. At 24 months, 3.0% of babies born to mothers with a low viral load were HIV positive compared to 8.7% of babies born to mothers with a high viral load, a statistically significant difference. Similarly, at 24 months, 8.4% of babies born to mothers with low baseline CD4 cell counts (CD4 cells are immune system cells that are killed by HIV; CD4 cell counts indicate the level of HIV-inflicted immune system damage) were HIV positive compared to 4.1% of babies born to mothers with high baseline CD4 cell counts, although this difference did not achieve statistical significance.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Although these findings are limited by the single-arm design, they support the idea that giving breastfeeding women a triple-ARV regimen from late pregnancy to 6 months is a safe, feasible way to reduce MTCT in resource-limited settings. The HIV transmission rates in this study are comparable to those recorded in similar trials in other resource-limited settings and are lower than MTCT rates observed previously in Kisumu in a study in which no ARVs were used. Importantly, the KiBS mothers took most of the ARVs they were prescribed and most stopped breastfeeding by 6 months as advised. The intense follow-up employed in KiBS may be partly responsible for this good adherence to the trial protocol and thus this study's findings may not be generalizable to all resource-limited settings. Nevertheless, they suggest that a simple triple-ARV regimen given to HIV-positive pregnant women regardless of their baseline CD4 cell count can reduce MTCT during pregnancy and breastfeeding in resource-limited setting.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001015.
The accompanying PLoS Medicine Research article by Zeh and colleagues describes the emergence of resistance to ARVs in KiBS
Information on HIV and AIDS is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on children, HIV, and AIDS and on preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV (in English and Spanish)
UNICEF also has information about children and HIV and AIDS (in several languages)
The World Health organization has information on mother-to-child transmission of HIV http://www.who.int/hiv/topics/mtct/en/index.html (in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001015
PMCID: PMC3066129  PMID: 21468300
25.  Impact of Round-the-Clock, Rapid Oral Fluid HIV Testing of Women in Labor in Rural India 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(5):e92.
Background
Testing pregnant women for HIV at the time of labor and delivery is the last opportunity for prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT) measures, particularly in settings where women do not receive adequate antenatal care. However, HIV testing and counseling of pregnant women in labor is a challenge, especially in resource-constrained settings. In India, many rural women present for delivery without any prior antenatal care. Those who do get antenatal care are not always tested for HIV, because of deficiencies in the provision of HIV testing and counseling services. In this context, we investigated the impact of introducing round-the-clock, rapid, point-of-care HIV testing and counseling in a busy labor ward at a tertiary care hospital in rural India.
Methods and Findings
After they provided written informed consent, women admitted to the labor ward of a rural teaching hospital in India were offered two rapid tests on oral fluid and finger-stick specimens (OraQuick Rapid HIV-1/HIV-2 tests, OraSure Technologies). Simultaneously, venous blood was drawn for conventional HIV ELISA testing. Western blot tests were performed for confirmatory testing if women were positive by both rapid tests and dual ELISA, or where test results were discordant. Round-the-clock (24 h, 7 d/wk) abbreviated prepartum and extended postpartum counseling sessions were offered as part of the testing strategy. HIV-positive women were administered PMTCT interventions. Of 1,252 eligible women (age range 18 y to 38 y) approached for consent over a 9 mo period in 2006, 1,222 (98%) accepted HIV testing in the labor ward. Of these, 1,003 (82%) women presented with either no reports or incomplete reports of prior HIV testing results at the time of admission to the labor ward. Of 1,222 women, 15 were diagnosed as HIV-positive (on the basis of two rapid tests, dual ELISA and Western blot), yielding a seroprevalence of 1.23% (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.61%–1.8%). Of the 15 HIV test–positive women, four (27%) had presented with reported HIV status, and 11 (73%) new cases of HIV infection were detected due to rapid testing in the labor room. Thus, 11 HIV-positive women received PMTCT interventions on account of round-the-clock rapid HIV testing and counseling in the labor room. While both OraQuick tests (oral and finger-stick) were 100% specific, one false-negative result was documented (with both oral fluid and finger-stick specimens). Of the 15 HIV-infected women who delivered, 13 infants were HIV seronegative at birth and at 1 and 4 mo after delivery; two HIV-positive infants died within a month of delivery.
Conclusions
In a busy rural labor ward setting in India, we demonstrated that it is feasible to introduce a program of round-the-clock rapid HIV testing, including prepartum and extended postpartum counseling sessions. Our data suggest that the availability of round-the-clock rapid HIV testing resulted in successful documentation of HIV serostatus in a large proportion (82%) of rural women who were unaware of their HIV status when admitted to the labor room. In addition, 11 (73%) of a total of 15 HIV-positive women received PMTCT interventions because of round-the-clock rapid testing in the labor ward. These findings are relevant for PMTCT programs in developing countries.
Nitika Pant Pai and colleagues report the results of offering a round-the-clock rapid HIV testing program in a rural labor ward setting in India.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Since the first reported case of AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) in 1981, the number of people infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS, has risen steadily. Now, more than 33 million people are infected, almost half of them women. HIV is most often spread through unprotected sex with an infected partner, but mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV is also an important transmission route. HIV-positive women often pass the virus to their babies during pregnancy, labor and delivery, and breastfeeding, if nothing is done to prevent viral transmission. In developed countries, interventions such as voluntary testing and counseling, safe delivery practices (for example, offering cesarean delivery to HIV-positive women), and antiretroviral treatment of the mother during pregnancy and labor and of her newborn baby have minimized the risk of MTCT. In developing countries, the prevention of MTCT (PMTCT) is much less effective, in part because pregnant women often do not know their HIV status. Consequently, in 2007, nearly half a million children became infected with HIV mainly through MTCT.
Why Was This Study Done?
In many developing countries, women do not receive adequate antenatal care. In India, for example, nearly half the women living in rural areas do not receive any antenatal care until they are in labor. This gives health care providers very little time in which to counsel women about HIV infection, test them for the virus, and start interventions to prevent MTCT. Furthermore, testing pregnant women in labor for HIV and counseling them is a challenge, particularly where resources are limited. In this study, therefore, the researchers investigate the feasibility and impact of introducing round-the-clock, rapid HIV testing and counseling in a busy labor ward in a rural teaching hospital in Sevagram, India.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Women admitted to the labor ward between January and September 2006 were offered two rapid HIV tests—one that used a saliva sample and the other that used blood taken from a finger prick. Blood was also taken from a vein for conventional HIV testing. All the women were given a 15-minute counseling session about how HIV is transmitted, the importance of HIV testing, and information on PMTCT before their child was born (prepartum counseling), and a longer postpartum counseling session. HIV-positive women were given a cesarean delivery where possible and antiretroviral drug treatment to reduce MTCT. 1,222 women admitted to the labor ward during the study period (1,003 of whom did not know their HIV status) accepted HIV testing. Of 15 study participants who were HIV positive, 11 learnt of their HIV status in the labor room. Two babies born to these HIV-positive women were HIV positive and died within a month of delivery; the other 13 babies were HIV negative at birth and at 1 and 4 months after delivery. Finally, the rapid HIV tests missed only one HIV-positive woman (no false-positive results were given), and the time from enrolling a woman into the study through referring her for PMTCT intervention where necessary averaged 40–60 minutes.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show the feasibility and positive impact of the introduction of round-the-clock pre- and postpartum HIV counseling and rapid HIV testing into a busy rural Indian labor ward. Few of the women entering this ward knew their HIV status previously but the introduction of these facilities in this setting successfully informed these women of their HIV status. In addition, the round-the-clock counseling and testing led to 11 women and their babies receiving PMTCT interventions who would otherwise have been missed. These findings need to be confirmed in other settings and the cost-effectiveness and sustainability of this approach for the improvement of PMTCT in developing countries needs to be investigated. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that round-the-clock rapid HIV testing might be an effective and acceptable way to reduce MTCT of HIV in many developing countries.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050092.
Read a related PLoS Medicine Perspective article
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS and on HIV infection in women
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS
Women, Children, and HIV provides extensive information on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV in developing countries
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on HIV and AIDS in India, on women, HIV, and AIDS, and on HIV and AIDS prevention, including the prevention of mother-to-child transmission
AIDSinfo, a service of the US Department of Health and Human Services provides health information for HIV-positive pregnant women (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050092
PMCID: PMC2365974  PMID: 18462011

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