Despite missing data, scientists in South Africa have shown that antiretroviral therapy (ART) is effective in treating infants who have HIV infections.
The new research fills in the data gaps to provide better understanding, which could help scientists create improved treatments and strategies for infant patients. These treatments can be used quickly after the babies are born.
"Our study offers a field-based proof of concept that certain type of data missingness can be tolerated without affecting the integrity of a study," Dr. Luis Montaner, director of the HIV-1 Immunopathogenesis Laboratory, said. "We hope this will encourage other scientists to target hard-to-reach populations, particularly in resource-constrained settings."
The clinical trials show the benefits of treating HIV infants with ART as soon as possible, as earlier treatments show a notable decline in morbidity as well as mortality rates.
"Despite the best efforts of pediatricians and pediatric nurses, insufficient samples and missed visits have been the norm for pediatric studies in developing countries," Wistar Institute professor Dr. Herbert Kean said. "Loss of data lead to loss of statistical power, so it's extremely important to develop methods that allow us to analyze data sets where data are randomly missing."
Unfortunately, the study neglects to show whether the HIV infants with ART will ever be able to fully develop an immune system that is “normal.”