Small Drug Pouch May Offer New Tool to Protect Newborns From HIV

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This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

Researchers say they have found a way to extend the storage life of a drug used to treat H.I.V. Their work could give infected mothers in the developing world a new way to prevent the spread of the AIDS virus to their newborn babies. The drug is nevirapine. If it is given within seventy-two hours after birth, it can often protect babies from H.I.V.

Researchers at Duke University in North Carolina have developed a small pouch made of foil and plastic. They say current tests show that the pouch can safely store the drug for as long as four months. But they expect that final results in October will show it can keep the liquid stable for up to twelve months.

That way, H.I.V.-infected women could have plenty of time to get the pouch from a health care provider early in their pregnancy.

Caroline Gamache is a biomedical engineer at Duke who worked on the project.

CAROLINE GAMACHE: "Many mothers deliver at home in sub-Saharan Africa and it's very difficult for them to get to a hospital or clinic which may be miles away in that time period. And so we are proposing to give this pouch to mothers in their first or second trimester, when they come in for their first antenatal care visit. And then they would take the pouch home and they'd have it at their hands at the time of delivery."

The idea is that mothers would pour the liquid into the baby's mouth as part of an H.I.V. treatment program.

The drug company Boehringer Ingelheim developed nevirapine. It says one dose of the medicine given to mother and child prevents the spread of H.I.V. in more than fifty percent of cases.

Boehringer Ingelheim has been working with the nonprofit organization PATH to offer a similar pouch for the past several years. The nevirapine is contained in a small dropper placed inside the pouch.

They got the idea from health workers in Kenya. The workers had been putting the medicine into droppers, then wrapping the tube with tape, aluminum foil and plastic. PATH designed a foil pouch that could keep the medicine stable for up to two months.

Adriane Burman is with the PATH office in Seattle, Washington. She says the pouch is an important tool for preventing the spread of H.I.V. from mother to child.

She noted a United Nations report that in two thousand eight about four hundred thirty thousand babies were born with H.I.V. Nine out of ten were born in Africa. The report said nearly all the mother-to-child infections could have been prevented through interventions.

And that's the VOA Special English Development Report, written by June Simms. You can find transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our reports at voaspecialenglish.com. I'm Steve Ember.

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