New study suggests risk of birth defects in babies born to women on HIV medicine dolutegravir

European Medicines Agency, 18/05/2018

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is evaluating preliminary results from a study which found 4 cases of birth defects such as spina bifida (malformed spinal cord) in babies born to mothers who became pregnant while taking dolutegravir. While EMA is assessing the new evidence it has issued the following precautionary advice:

  • Dolutegravir HIV medicines should not be prescribed to women seeking to become pregnant.
  • Women who can become pregnant should use effective contraception while taking dolutegravir medicines.

The study, which looked at babies born to 11,558 HIV-infected women in Botswana, showed that 0.9% of babies (4 of 426) whose mothers became pregnant while taking dolutegravir had a neural tube defect, compared with 0.1% of babies (14 of 11,173) whose mothers took other HIV medicines. Final results are expected in about a year.

Women who have been prescribed dolutegravir should not stop taking their medicine without first consulting their doctor.

EMA will update the recommendations as necessary when it concludes its assessment.

‘People are scared’: the fight against a deadly virus no one has heard of

Guardian Australia, Tue 24 Apr 2018 

An Aboriginal woman – we’ll call her B – is sitting in a dry creek bed outside her community and telling the world “this is a very bad disease. But we have to talk in a way not to shame people. Not telling them straight out. Telling them gently and quietly.”

B is talking about a sickness that has killed her family member and is a potential tragedy facing Aboriginal communities in central Australia, who have the world’s highest rates of a fatal, human immune virus for which there is no current cure, no treatment and no coordinated public health response.

Human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) is transmitted through sexual contact, blood transfusion and from mother to child by breastfeeding. It can cause a rapidly fatal form of leukaemia. Some people die within weeks of diagnosis. HTLV-1 also causes inflammation of the spinal cord leading to paralysis, severe lung disease known as bronchiectasis and other inflammatory disease.

In five communities around Alice Springs, more than 45% of adults tested have the virus, a rate thousands of times higher than for non-Indigenous Australians.

Risk of catching Zika virus through sexual transmission far higher than thought, WHO says

ABC radio,Wednesday, March 9, 2016 12:35:47

The World Health Organization (WHO) says it appears the risk of catching the mosquito-borne Zika virus through sexual transmission is far higher than thought.

And the complications for unborn babies are far broader than previously feared.

Read more or listen to audio here