Skip to content
CSDE News & Events

New Research by Bulterys, Njuguna, John-Stewart, and Colleagues: Neurodevelopment of Children Who Are HIV-exposed and Uninfected

Posted: 11/9/2023 (CSDE Research)

CSDE Affiliate Dr. Grace John-Stewart (Global Health, Epidemiology, Medicine, and Pediatrics) and co-authors published their research in the Journal of the International AIDS Society, titled “Neurodevelopment of children who are HIV-exposed and uninfected in Kenya“. Dr. Michelle Bulterys was the lead author on the study and conducted this research during her PhD in epidemiology at UW. Dr. Irene Njuguna was the project director and is an assistant professor in the Department of Global Health. Predictors of neurodevelopment among children who are HIV-exposed uninfected (CHEU) are poorly understood. Mothers with and without HIV and their children were enrolled during 6-week postnatal care visits across seven sites in Kenya between March 2021 and June 2022. Infant neurodevelopment was assessed using the Malawi Developmental Assessment Tool, including social, language, fine motor and gross motor domains. Authors used multivariate linear mixed effects models to identify associations between 1-year neurodevelopment scores, HIV and antiretroviral therapy (ART) exposures, and household factors, adjusted for potential confounders and clustered by the site.

At 1-year evaluation, CHEU (n = 709) and children who are HIV-unexposed uninfected (CHUU) (n = 715) had comparable median age (52 weeks) and sex distribution (49% vs. 52% female). Mothers living with HIV were older (31 vs. 27 years), had lower education (50% vs. 26% primary) and were more likely to be report moderate-to-severe food insecurity (26% vs. 9%) (p < 0.01 for all). Compared to CHUU, CHEU had higher language scores (adjusted coeff: 0.23, 95% CI: 0.06, 0.39) and comparable social, fine and gross motor scores. Among all children, preterm birth was associated with lower gross motor scores (adjusted coeff: −1.38, 95% CI: −2.05, −0.71), food insecurity was associated with lower social scores (adjusted coeff: −0.37, 95% CI: −0.73, −0.01) and maternal report of intimate partner violence (IPV) was associated with lower fine motor (adjusted coeff: −0.76, 95% CI: −1.40, −0.13) and gross motor scores (adjusted coeff: −1.07, 95% CI: −1.81, −0.33). Among CHEU, in utero efavirenz (EFV) exposure during pregnancy was associated with lower gross motor scores compared to dolutegravir (DTG) exposure (adjusted coeff: −0.51, 95% CI: −1.01, −0.03). Lower fine and gross motor scores were also associated with having a single or widowed mother (adjusted coeff: −0.45, 95% CI: −0.87, −0.03) or a deceased or absent father (adjusted coeff: −0.81, 95% CI: −1.58, −0.05), respectively. Biologic and social factors were associated with child neurodevelopment. Despite socio-demographic differences between CHEU and CHUU, 1-year neurodevelopment was similar. Addressing IPV and food insecurity may provide benefits regardless of maternal HIV status. DTG use was associated with higher neurodevelopmental scores in CHEU, compared to EFV regimens, potentially contributing to a lack of neurodevelopmental difference between CHEU and CHUU.


Read Full Article