Global WACh

July 10, 2018

Dr. Jillian Pintye receives award to measure antiretroviral exposure in mothers and infants using hair samples

Dr. Jillian Pintye, PhD, RN, MPH, Senior Fellow and Trainee with Global WACh and the Department of Global Health, is a recipient of a NIH R21 Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Award!  Her project entitled “Assessing Mother and Infant Antiretroviral Exposure Using Hair Measures” is a two-year grant that will begin in the coming weeks and end during summer 2020.  She is serving as one of two Primary Investigators with Dr. Monica Gandhi from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), who is a leader in the field of HIV and women, and biomarkers for antiretroviral therapy exposure.

Together, they are working with Dr. Deborah Kacanek from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) to learn more about antiretroviral exposures from pregnant women to their babies.  Although antiretroviral (ARV) medication is a key strategy to prevent maternal-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT), there is less research around the degree of transfer of ARV from mother to baby during pregnancy.  How much of the medication actually transfers to babies in utero?

To answer this question, Dr. Pintye and her team will analyze ARV concentrations from 700 hair samples collected from the NIH-funded “Surveillance Monitoring for ART Toxicities Study in HIV-uninfected Children Born to HIV-infected Women (SMARTT)” study cohort.  Some ARVs can be harmful to mothers and babies, and the adverse health outcomes varies from drug to drug.  By measuring hair concentrations, the team can find patterns of drug exposure and toxicity levels, and assess which HIV regimens are safe and effective.  ARV toxicity is a concern because it is associated with adverse birth outcomes, manifesting as stillbirths, low birth weight, or birth defects.  Lower toxicity to babies in utero reduces adverse pregnancy or other infant outcomes.

The results of this study will help inform researchers and health care providers on which regimens HIV-positive mothers should take during pregnancy.  Selecting the right medication can maximize protection for PMTCT, while minimizing toxicity to the infant and saving their lives.

Congratulations to Dr. Pintye and her colleagues for their award!  We look forward to learning what their research reveals.