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Pregnant Women Taking Anti HIV Medication Risk Damaging Children's Heart

Update Date: Nov 23, 2014 10:25 PM EST

Pregnant mothers taking HIV medication to prevent fetal transmission, increase the risk of heart damage in children.

The findings from Wayne State University and Children's Hospital of Michigan study seeks to determine long term effects of antiviral medication used to prevent mother-to-child transmission. Researchers compared heart development and long term functioning in 428 children of HIV infected mothers who received medication when pregnant, to children who were not exposed to the virus.

"What our study indicates is that there's potentially a long-term price to be paid for protecting the children of HIV-infected mothers from the virus. These medicines have been very effective at reducing the rate of transmission of HIV from mother to child but the findings we've just published show clearly that further investigation of their long-term impact on the heart health of the children involved is needed," said Steven E Lipshultz pediatrician-in-chief at the Children's Hospital of Michigan, in a press release.

One of the study's findings indicated that left ventricular structure and functioning was affected in children whose mothers took medication.

"Subclinical differences in left ventricular structure and function with specific in-utero antiviral exposures indicate the need for a longitudinal study to assess long-term cardiac risk and cardiac monitoring recommendations," said Dr Lipshultz.

"Thanks to the new anti-HIV medications, the rate of transmission has been lowered from 26 percent to less than 1 percent during the past few decades, and that has been a miracle of life for the children involved. Still, we don't want to be protecting these children from one disease, only to give them another one."

Researchers made a clarion call for more studies to determine effects of medications given to treat chronic conditions in children. They said very few studies are conducted but drugs like anti-HIV medication continue to be used for many years. 

The findings of the study have been published in the journal AIDS

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