Cheap Antibiotic Could Cut AIDS Deaths in Children

Following the publication of a study in The Lancet on its effects, the World Health Organization is recommending that HIV-postive children in the developed world be treated with a low-cost antibiotic that appears to dramatically reduce the risk of death among such children.

A British research team conducted a clinical trial using the antibiotic co-trimoxazole to treat HIV positive children in Zambia. The researchers ended the study ahead of time because the effect was so great. After 19 months, only 25 percent of children taking the co-trimoxazole had died compared to 40 percent of the control group of children who had been given a placebo.

WHO and UNICEF are now calling for all children who are HIV positive or whose HIV status is unknown to be treated with co-trimoxazole. The drug is cheap, costing less than 10 cents to treat a person per day, making it ideal for the developing world.

Researchers had initially feared that co-trimoxazole would not be effective due to relatively high levels of antibiotic resistance in Africa, but the drug proved effective in tackling the opportunistic infections such as pneumonia and tuberculosis which kill many children with AIDS.


New low-cost HIV treatment hailed. The BBC, November 19, 2004.

Antibiotic could halve AIDS-related deaths in children. Priya Shetty. SciDev.Net, November 19, 2004.

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