JUL 24, 2019 10:40 PM PDT

HIV Therapeutics Places Risk of Neural Tube Defects

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, women taking an HIV therapeutic drug containing dolutegravir have a higher risk of giving birth to children with neural tube defects particularly in comparison to women taking other antiretroviral drug regimens.

Learn more on neural tube defects:

Neural tube defects consist of abnormalities in the development of the brain and spinal column. The NICHD-funded study, which began in 2014 in Botswana, was used to track birth outcomes, including neural tube defects for infants born to women taking antiretroviral therapy for an HIV infection in eight hospitals.

Upon findings, Botswana changed their treatment guidelines to recommend drug combinations containing dolutegravir for all adults, this included pregnant women. However, later preliminary studies indicated a potential risk between mothers receiving the drug and neural tube defects among their infants—this is especially true for women who received the dolutegravir treatment around the time they conceived.

During the International AIDS Society Conference, researchers reported their findings describing women that were on dolutegravir since conception. Of these women, five neural tube defects occurred out of 1,683 births (0.3%). However, women who were on the drug, efavirenz, since conception had three cases of neural tube defects out of 7,959 births (0.04%). Furthermore, women receiving another HIV treatment regimens that did not involve dolutegravir had 15 neural tube defect cases out of 14,792 births (0.1%). At the end, the findings concluded 0.2% difference in risk for infants born to women on dolutegravir drug therapy since conceiving. Although the risk is small, findings are significant.

Source: National Institute of Health

About the Author
  • Nouran earned her BS and MS in Biology at IUPUI and currently shares her love of science by teaching. She enjoys writing on various topics as well including science & medicine, global health, and conservation biology. She hopes through her writing she can make science more engaging and communicable to the general public.
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