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Children and AIDS.

Children and AIDS

From the AIDS bettlefield in Newark, N.J., James M. Oleske reports that the vast majority of pediatric AIDS cases nationwide are now acquired perinatally -- that is, from early pregnancy through the time of birth -- through infection of the mothers with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). "What we're seeing more and more of in Newark, and the same will be seen elsewhere," Oleske says, are "women who are infected although they are not drug users, but they were exposed to high-risk males." Because approximately half the children born toHIV carriers are expected to develop fatal AIDS, this represents an area of great concern, he says. Previously, blood transfusions accounted for the majority of pediatric AIDS cases nationwide.

Although perinatal AIDS cases reported to the Centers or Disease Control represent just a tiny fraction of total cases, he latest CDC figures reflect almost a doubling in one year. Of the 828 US, perinatal cases cumulatively reported through July 11, 391 were reported in the previous 12 months, CDC statistician Margaret Oxtoby told SCIENCE NEWS.

By 1991, Oleske predicts, the cumulative number of infected children will range from 10,000 to 20,000 most with symptoms, and one of every 10 to 15 U.S. hospital beds will be occupied by a child with HIV infection, says Oleske, a pediatric immunologist from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

Meanwhile, he says, other researchers are conducting studies to determine whether boosting the immune system of young AIDS patients with intravenous gamma globulin is effective. In addition, studies are planned to determine whether gamma globulin in combination with the drug zidovudine (also known as AZT) -- the most helpful treatment for AIDS developed so far -- is more effective than either alone.

Preliminary results in nine children with AIS being treated in a long-term zidovudine study are favorable. Oleske reports they tolerate the drug better than adults. "It may be effective, and it may be less toxic in children," he says. "We're excited abou it." He notes that other researchers will attempt to prevent the disease in the fetus by giving infected women zidovudine during the third trimester of pregnancy.
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Author:Eron, Carol
Publication:Science News
Date:Jul 30, 1988
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