Single-Serving Survival

Antiretroviral-drug packaging protects newborns

Expensive image: PET scans drive up health-care costs.

Biomedical engineers at Duke have developed an inexpensive and easy-to-use system that allows HIV-positive mothers to give their newborns a potentially life-saving dose of the antiretroviral medication Nevirapine shortly after birth. The researchers developed a package similar to a single-serving ketchup packet that has a long shelf life and is easy to use.

To be effective, the drug must be given to the newborn within days of birth. Women who live in remote areas are often unable to obtain the medication after giving birth; travel is difficult, and clinics or hospitals are often far away.

The new pouch has been shown in tests to greatly reduce evaporation of the medication while keeping it potent at a variety of temperatures. Other means of delivery, such as syringes and containers, tend to evaporate during storage and to lose preservatives.

The team has conducted experiments in the past year on the use of the pouches with nurses and pharmacists in Tanzania. Based on the encouraging results, they plan clinical trials to determine whether the new system can reduce the number cases of HIV transmitted from mother to child.

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