WASHINGTON, June 30 (AFP) - Multivitamins slowed down the advance of HIV in a study of more than 1,000 pregnant women in Tanzania, according to findings in Thursday's edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Women who took a combination of vitamins B, C and E maintained a higher level of immune cells allowing them to fight the virus that causes AIDS and resulting in a lower viral load.
The multivitamins showed the strongest effect during the first two years of treatment, the study showed, but adding vitamin A to the mix reduced the benefits.
A team of scientists led by Doctor Wafaie Fawzi of the Harvard School of Public Health conducted the study in the Tanzanian capital Dar es Salaam, where they examined 1,078 pregnant women carrying the virus.
Multivitamins could offer a low-cost way to delay the need for expensive anti-retroviral drugs, which cause many side effects, in treating people with HIV in poor countries, the researchers said.
"There is a clear need to confirm the new findings and to evaluate the effects of multivitamins in larger populations, particularly among persons with more advanced HIV disease or more serious nutritional deficiencies," Barbara Marston and Kevin De Cock of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Nairobi wrote in an editorial accompanying the study.
The findings "should stimulate broader discussion of the role of nutrition in patients with AIDS in the developing world," they wrote.
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