Early HAART Initiation Improves Vaccine Response Among HIV-Positive Children, Study Says
HIV-positive infants who begin treatment with highly active antiretroviral therapy within the first year of life can develop normal immune responses to childhood vaccines, according to a study published online Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Reuters Health reports. Vaccines function by stimulating the production of antibodies for a particular disease, but HIV causes a decline in these antibody-producing cells and therefore reduces immunity. Prior to the new study, researchers were unsure whether the timing of HAART initiation could help preserve these cells and promote normal immune responses to vaccines among children.
For the study, Paolo Rossi of the University of Tor Vergata in Rome and colleagues examined 70 children who contracted HIV through mother-to-child transmission and 50 HIV-negative control participants. Of the HIV-positive children, 13 received HAART during their first year, six received no treatment and the remaining children received therapy later in life. All of the children in the study group received the recommended vaccinations for measles and tetanus. According to the study's findings, children who received HAART during their first year maintained normal levels of antibody producing cells, while children in the other groups had lower levels of these cells.
According to Rossi, the timing of HAART initiation is a key factor in determining whether HIV-positive children will develop normal vaccine responses and how long the response will last. The authors write that their findings support early HAART initiation for the purpose of preserving normal immune responses among HIV-positive infants. However, they add that health officials might need to revise vaccine schedules for HIV-positive children who begin treatment after the first year of life (Reuters Health, 4/29).
An abstract of the study is available online.