29 March 2010
Providing antibiotics to some newly diagnosed HIV patients could save tens of thousands of patients, but researchers are missing this opportunity, say researchers.
According to a major study in The Lancet, the simple, cheap, drug treatment halved mortality.
The World Health Organization already endorses the treatment, but specialists say many people are not given the drug.
In the battle against HIV, the researchers have long been focussing on antiretroviral drugs, which can greatly extend life.
However, many patients are at greatest risk in the first weeks after diagnosis, with a variety of infections ready to take advantage of their weakened immune systems.
Studies have estimated that as many as a quarter of people who enter antiretroviral drug treatment programmes in sub–Saharan Africa will die in the first year.
But the addition of co–trimoxazole, an inexpensive antibiotic, to the long–term treatment plan of those with the worst affected immune systems appears to prevent many of such deaths.
The Lancet study, carried out among 3,179 Ugandan patients, suggested a fall of 59 percent over the first 12 weeks, and 44 percent between 12 and 72 weeks.
Its authors, from the Medical Research Council Clinical Trials Unit and Imperial College in London, and centres in Uganda and Zimbabwe, have said that the antibiotic is not available in many places.
They say their findings reinforce the need for swifter action by those responsible for drug treatment programmes.
According to professor Charles Gilks, who led the study, any arguments over the effectiveness of the antibiotics were now –well and truly answered”.
–Tens of thousands of lives can be saved by more universal use of the drug, costing just a few pence a day,” the BBC quoted him as saying.
In addition to preventing bacterial infections in HIV patients, the drug had a welcome benefit – it cut the incidence of malaria by a quarter.
Sunday, Feb 19th
Last update:05:44:44 AM IST