By Gatonye Gathura
Days before mass roll0ut of the daily HIV prevention pill in Kenya, researchers want its link to infant birth defects investigated.
On Wednesday, researchers at the University of Amsterdam, Netherlands, claimed to have confirmed that infants born of women taking the pill were likely to be premature and of low weight and height.
Citing data from the varsity’s Emma Children’s Hospital, the researchers said they had isolated the ingredient Tenofovir (TCD) currently being used for preventing mother to child HIV transmission as the culprit.
Since 2013 the World Health Organization recommended the mass use of TCD in combination for preventing mother to child HIV transmission.
Tenofovir or TCD is also the main ingredient in the daily HIV prevention pill to be rolled out this month in Kenya targeting millions of adolescent and school girls.
Writing in the journal Aids, lead author Lisanne Denneman and the team say the drug has dramatically reduced the number of new infections in infants.
“However, there are concerns that TDF exposure negatively impacts fetal and infant growth and with the rapid increase of use there is need to assess safety,”
The team had assessed data from 74 HIV exposed uninfected infants at the hospital, whose mothers had been put on TDF during pregnancy.
Of these, nine, 12 per cent, were born premature, 13, about 18 per cent were born of low birth weight while there were a significant number of infants born of low height.
The authors are concerned that the situation could be worse in poor countries where infant have to contend with many challenges including poor nutrition and infections.
In a programme bankrolled by the US, Kenya is already distributing TCD to prostitutes and among discordant couples especially those who want to make children.