The effect of anthelminthic treatment during pregnancy on HIV plasma viral load; results from a randomised, double blinded, placebo-controlled trial in Uganda
Background - To investigate the effect of helminth infections and their treatment during pregnancy on HIV load, we conducted a 2×2 factorial randomised controlled trial of albendazole versus placebo and praziquantel versus placebo in pregnant women in Entebbe, Uganda
Methods - Two hundred and sixty-four HIV-infected women from the Entebbe Mother and Baby Study (ISRCTN32849447) were included in this analysis. Women were tested for helminth infections at enrolment and mean HIV load was compared between infected and uninfected groups. The effect of anthelminthic treatment on HIV load was evaluated at six weeks post-treatment and at delivery using linear regression and adjusting for enrolment viral load.
Results - Hookworm and Trichuris infections were associated with higher mean viral load at enrolment (adjusted mean difference 0.24log10 copies/ml, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.01 to 0.47, p=0.03 and 0.37log10 copies/ml, 95%CI: 0.00 to 0.74, p=0.05, respectively). There were no associations between viral load and other helminth species. There was some evidence that albendazole reduced viral load at six weeks post-treatment (adjusted mean difference −0.17, 95% CI: −0.36 to 0.01, p=0.07), however this effect did not differ according to mother’s hookworm infection status and had diminished at delivery (adjusted mean difference −0.11, 95% CI: −0.28 to 0.07, p=0.23). There was no effect of praziquantel treatment on HIV load at any time point.
Conclusions - Infection with some soil-transmitted helminth species is associated with increased HIV load in pregnancy. Treatment with albendazole causes a small decrease in HIV load, however this may not represent a direct effect of worm removal.