AIDS researchers have found that the inexpensive antiretroviral drug nevirapine can prevent HIV transmission through breast feeding, which is a significant issue in developing countries. However, the drug often can result in liver failure, rashes, low white blood cell counts and drug resistance, The New York Times reports (, 7/29). Experts estimate that 150,000 babies each year around the globe become HIV positive through breast feeding.

A new study published in The Lancet found that six-week nevirapine regimens were not clearly protective. Its principal authors suggest that heavier doses of the drug might be needed.

Some of that study’s Indian investigators suggested in a letter to The Lancet that using the drug preventatively was dangerous; they encourage formula feeding instead of breast feeding.

According to the Times, using baby formula prevents mother-to-child HIV transmission through breast milk, but if mixed with dirty water, formula can increase the risk of diarrhea or malnutrition in infants.