Is intrapartum intravenous zidovudine for prevention of mother-to-child HIV-1 transmission still useful in the combination antiretroviral therapy era?

Clin Infect Dis. 2013 Sep;57(6):903-14. doi: 10.1093/cid/cit374. Epub 2013 May 31.


Background: Intrapartum intravenous zidovudine (ZDV) prophylaxis is a long-standing component of prevention of mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in high-resource countries. In some recent guidelines, intravenous ZDV is no longer systematically recommended for mothers receiving combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) with low viral load. We evaluated the impact of intravenous ZDV according to viral load and obstetrical conditions.

Methods: All HIV-1-infected women delivering between 1 January 1997 and 31 December 2010 in the French Perinatal Cohort (ANRS-EPF) were analyzed if they received ART during pregnancy and did not breastfeed. We identified maternal and obstetrical characteristics related to lack of intravenous ZDV and compared its association with MTCT rate and other infant parameters, according to various risk factors.

Results: Intravenous ZDV was used in 95.2% of the 11 538 deliveries. Older age, multiparity, and preterm and vaginal delivery were associated with lack of intravenous ZDV (n = 554). In women who delivered with viral load ≥1000 copies/mL, the overall MTCT rate was higher without than with intravenous ZDV (7.5% vs 2.9%; P = .01); however, there was no such difference when the neonate received postnatal intensification therapy. Among them, 77% of women who had viral load <400 copies/mL, there was no difference in MTCT rate (0% without intravenous ZDV vs 0.6% with intravenous ZDV; P = .17). Intravenous ZDV was not associated with increased short-term hematological toxicity or lactate level.

Conclusions: Intravenous ZDV remains an effective tool to reduce transmission in cases of virological failure, even in cART-treated women. However, for the vast majority of women with low viral loads at delivery, in the absence of obstetrical risk factors, systematic intravenous ZDV appears to be unnecessary.

Keywords: intrapartum prophylaxis; mother-to-child HIV transmission; pregnancy; toxicity; zidovudine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-HIV Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antibiotic Prophylaxis
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical / prevention & control*
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / drug therapy*
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / prevention & control
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Viral Load
  • Zidovudine / therapeutic use*


  • Anti-HIV Agents
  • Zidovudine