A pill a day

Keeps death away

Published: Friday 31 December 2004

Use of a cheap antibiotic can< (Credit: Unaids)giving Africa's hiv-positive children a cheap antibiotic could nearly halve the mortality induced by aids, as per research published in The Lancet. Dianna Gibb and her colleagues from the Medical Research Council, Zambia, studied 541 children with aids- related infections; these children were living in areas where resistance to common antibiotics is widespread.

Some of the children were given the antibiotic co-trimoxazole prophylaxis; others were given a dummy drug. After about 19 months, more than 40 per cent of the kids given the dummy drug died, but only 10 per cent of the children taking co-trimoxazole prophylaxis met with the same fate.

The findings suggest that all hiv -positive children should be given the antibiotic. Moreover, using co-trimoxazole prophylaxis costs peanuts. "Tackling hiv is just one approach to managing the aids crisis. Reducing the secondary complications and infections, which can be just as fatal as aids, is also important. Our trial proves that the approach can have dramatic results. The findings should provide an impetus to provide clinical care and nutritional support to patients, irrespective of their levels of resistance to the drugs," the researchers conclude.

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