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AZT shows no ill effects on babies.

About 5 years ago, pregnant women infected with HIV began getting the drug AZT to limit transmission of the AIDS virus to their fetuses. This practice continues today, although doctors augment AZT with other drugs to suppress the virus.

The current drug combination limits to about 5 percent the frequency of HIV transmission to infants. But because tests in animals show that AZT exposure might cause cancer, researchers have worried that AZT might harm the children.

A new study in babies up to age 4 suggests that it doesn't. Scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in Bethesda, Md., compared 122 HIV-negative babies who had been exposed to AZT both in the womb and during their first 6 weeks after birth with 112 healthy babies never exposed to AZT. They found no significant differences between the groups in physical growth, mental function, immune-system development, or heart function. Further tests showed no cancer in either group, and among children who received eye examinations, there was little difference, the researchers report in the Jan. 13 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION.

The scientists collected their data from dozens of pediatric clinics across the United States.

"It provides some reassurance to these women," says study coauthor Mary Culnane, a nurse and medical officer at NIAID. The findings offer "new and important information" for women who have to make a choice about using AZT, she says.

The infants were part of a study of HIV-infected mothers conducted prior to 1995, in which some received AZT and some received an inert substance, or placebo. When AZT's potent anti-HIV effects were realized, the placebo portion of the study was stopped and all participating mothers received AZT afterward. The infants examined in the new study were born HIV-free despite their mothers' infections.
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Title Annotation:drug has been used to prevent the spread of the AIDS virus from mother to child
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Feb 6, 1999
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