Short-course zidovudine (ZDV) with or without a single dose of nevirapine (sdNVP) is widely used to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT). However, more data on viral load in breast milk following pMTCT regimens are needed. In a randomized PMTCT study in Botswana, in which half of the women received sdNVP in labor, stored samples from mothers assigned to breastfeed were analyzed for HIV-1 RNA in breast milk supernatant. A total of 527 samples from 282 women, collected at delivery, 2 weeks, 2 months, and 5 months postpartum were available for testing. Cell-free breast milk HIV-1 RNA was detectable (>40 copies/ml) in 44.8% (236/527) of samples analyzed. Women randomized to sdNVP + ZDV were more likely to have undetectable breast milk viral loads at 2 weeks postpartum compared with those who received ZDV alone (67.8% vs. 38.5%, p = 0.002). By 2 months postpartum the difference between study arms disappeared, and 43.8% of women who received sdNVP + ZDV had undetectable HIV-1 RNA compared to 53.8% of the ZDV alone group (p = 0.19) and 60.5% vs. 64.5%, respectively, at month 5 (p = 0.61.) The addition of sdNVP to antenatal short-course AZT resulted in significantly reduced breast milk viral loads at 2 weeks postpartum suggesting a reduced risk of MTCT during the early postpartum period. However, viral loads in both study arms were comparable at 2 and 5 months postpartum, suggesting that the receipt of sdNVP in labor may defer rather than blunt the postpartum viral load rebound seen in breast milk after the discontinuation of ZDV.
Rossenkhan R, Ndung'u T, Sebunya TK, Hagan JE, Shapiro R, Novitsky V, Moyo SM, Thior I, Lockman S, Mitchell R, Kim S, Musonda R, van Widenfelt E, Makhema J, Essex M. (2009). Temporal reduction of HIV type 1 viral load in breast milk by single-dose nevirapine during prevention of MTCT. AIDS research and human retroviruses, 25(12)