Antiviral therapy for human immunodeficiency virus infection in children.
Antiretroviral therapy for children is still at an early stage, although progress is being made slowly. Zidovudine administered at 180 mg/m2/dose every 6 hours is the current standard therapy for symptomatic children and those with low CD4 counts. This standard is likely to evolve as further testing clarifies the optimal dosage for ZDV in different populations. Children on ZDV need to be monitored very closely (at least monthly) for hematologic side effects, which are most common in the more seriously ill children. The role of some of the newer antiretrovirals, like ddI and ddC, which are likely to be licensed, has yet to be established. They have a different toxicity profile than ZDV and thus may work well in combination with it. The issue of peripheral neuropathy and the lack of an easy test to measure it makes using ddC or ddI in young, preverbal children a daunting proposition. As with ZDV, the optimum dosage and timing have yet to be fixed for ddC or ddI alone, and even less available are regimens for combination therapy. Antiretroviral drugs other than the dideoxynucleosides are less well developed. Some, like high-titer antiviral immunoglobulin, involve technology that is already available and thus will be relatively easy to study. Others, like the antisense oligomers, are such a new technology that there are many hurdles to be overcome as the agents move from the laboratory to the clinic. The goal of agents that work on sites other than reverse transcriptase is a reasonable one, but the work in perfecting such new categories of drug is difficult and slow. In the meantime, children with HIV should be symptomatically supported and offered the most effective antiretroviral regimens available.
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