TUESDAY, Feb. 23, 2016 -- A drug used to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission during pregnancy may slow language development slightly in children, a new study suggests.
Researchers followed more than 900 infants who were born to HIV-positive mothers but were not infected by the AIDS-causing virus. All of the mothers took antiretroviral drugs during pregnancy. Some of the treatment regimens included a drug called atazanavir (Reyataz), while others did not.
The infants underwent a standard test of development at 1 year of age. The 167 infants whose mothers took atazanavir during pregnancy had slightly lower language and social development scores than the 750 infants whose mothers did not take the drug.
But the study only showed an association between atazanavir and language delays in children, and did not prove a cause-and-effect link.
And the difference in social development scores was significant only among infants whose mothers started antiretroviral therapy during the second or third trimester of pregnancy. This may be because women who started taking atazanavir during the first trimester switched to a different antiviral drug regimen later in pregnancy, the researchers suggested.
Scores in mental, physical and behavioral development were similar for infants whose mothers took atazanavir and those whose mothers did not, added lead researcher Ellen Caniglia, from Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.
The study was published online recently in the journal AIDS.
Previous research has suggested language development delays in infants whose mothers took atazanavir during pregnancy, and these findings add to those concerns, the researchers said in a journal news release.
Further studies are needed to determine whether these language and social development delays last beyond the age of 1, how atazanavir might cause these delays, and whether the delays might be linked to another drug called tenofovir (Viread), which is typically used alongside atazanavir.
The results of the study "may be useful in treatment planning for women with HIV infection," the researchers concluded.