Objective: In resource-limited settings without safe alternatives to breastfeeding, the WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding and antiretroviral (ARV) prophylaxis. Given the high prevalence of anemia among HIV-infected women, mothers and their infants (through fetal iron accretion) may be at risk of iron deficiency. We assessed the effects of maternal micronutrient-fortified lipid-based nutrient supplements (LNS) and maternal ARV treatment or infant ARV prophylaxis on maternal and infant iron status during exclusive breastfeeding from birth to 24 weeks.
Methods: The Breastfeeding, Antiretrovirals, and Nutrition study was a randomized controlled trial conducted in Lilongwe, Malawi, from 2004 to 2010. HIV-infected mothers (CD4 >200 cells/μL) and their infants were randomly assigned to 28-week interventions: maternal LNS/maternal ARV (n = 424), maternal LNS/infant ARV (n = 426), maternal LNS (n = 334), maternal ARV (n = 425), infant ARV (n = 426), or control (n = 334). Longitudinal models tested intervention effects on hemoglobin (Hb). In a subsample (n = 537) with multiple iron indicators, intervention effects on Hb, transferrin receptors (TfR), and ferritin were tested with linear and Poisson regression.
Results: In longitudinal models, LNS effects on maternal and infant Hb were minimal. In subsample mothers, maternal ARVs were associated with tissue iron depletion (TfR >8.3 mg/L) (risk ratio: 3.1, P < 0.01), but not in ARV-treated mothers receiving LNS (P = 0.17). LNS without ARVs was not associated with iron deficiency or anemia (P > 0.1). In subsample infants, interventions were not associated with impaired iron status (all P > 0.1).
Conclusions: Maternal ARV treatment with protease inhibitors is associated with maternal tissue iron depletion; but LNS mitigates adverse effects. ARVs do not seem to influence infant iron status; however, extended use needs to be evaluated.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00164736.