Pneumonia Drug linked to Foetal deformities

SCMP: Sunday March 30, 2003

Doctors have warned that patients treated for atypical pneumonia should not try having a child for the following 6 months as the foetus could be deformed.
The drugs being used to treat hundreds of patients worldwide could have serious side effects on foetuses under 16 weeks, Drs said.

Yuen Kwok-yuen, professor of microbiology at the University of HK said the risk was reduced only after the 28 week of pregnancy, by which time the foetus will be well developed.

The anti-viral treatment, which involves ribavarin and steroids is said to have about a 90% success rate if treatment is promptly sought.

Justin Wu Che-yuen of the Dept of Medicine & Therapeutics at the Chinese University said laboratory results had identified ribavarin as a risk factor for unborn babies.

As an alternative, Drs may use steroids alone on patients with mild symptoms although this is less effective and should not be used on anyone with asthma.

Serum is another alternative when the antiviral treatment cannot be used, Drs said.

Dr Wu said couples planning on having babies should take additional precautions against the outbreak.