Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have found a treatment that could help stop the global threat of HIV - especially within the female population, according to the UNC Institute. Up to 45% of the 1.5 million pregnant women with HIV will transmit the virus to their babies, usually through breastfeeding. A new medicine called EFdA has been shown to reduce this transmission from mother to child. 

Using humanized mouse models, the researchers dosed the subjects once daily with EFdA - and found that it prevented contraction of the virus through both oral and vaginal transmission, even through multiple, high-level exposures.

“Women and children are vulnerable to HIV infection,” said Martina Kovarova, PhD, the lead in the study. “We discovered that EFdA can prevent vaginal transmission of HIV, which would prevent new infections in women. In addition, we were also able to show that EFdA can prevent oral transmission of HIV which would prevent infants who are born to mothers already living with HIV from acquiring the virus during breastfeeding.”

With this encouraging new information, the next step is to determine the lowest possible dose to retain the benefit, as well as how often the medicine is needed and how long it stays in the system.  

“The majority of new HIV infections in women and children occur in developing countries with limited resources. The availability of an anti-HIV drug that is potent enough to be used as a preventative agent in both women and infants has the potential to make a significant impact on the global HIV epidemic,” said Angela Wahl, PhD, at UNC’s School of Medicine.

The results of this study were published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy

Photo: Flickr/Elena Gurzhiy