A study of nearly 2,500 HIV-positive children found that those treated with immune-boosting highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) were three times as likely to develop asthma as children who did not receive HAART treatment.
“The lessons learned in this clinical study have obvious application for the millions of HIV-infected children worldwide,” said study author William T. Shearer, MD, PhD, FAAAAI. “Physicians who treat HIV-infected children need to be aware that restoring a child's immune system with HAART therapy may produce asthma and the child needs to be placed on a regular asthma treatment program. Parents need to know that HAART medications are life-saving but may produce the unexpected complication of asthma.”
HAART improves cellular immunity, but these findings suggest that the resulting higher counts of CD4 T cells may lead to airway hypersensitivity and asthma. Thirty-three percent of children who received HAART treatment developed asthma, compared to 11 percent of children who did not receive HAART.
Shearer noted that the findings could have implications for all children. “The mechanisms of asthma in children without HIV may also be better understood from this research,” he said. “This study may help explain some of the possible immunological triggers that precipitate asthma in the general pediatric population.”
The study relied on data from the National Institutes of Health Women and Infants Transmission Study (WITS), which provided a large and diverse group of subjects.