Context: With the success of zidovudine chemoprophylaxis for prevention of perinatal transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), an increasing number of HIV-exposed but uninfected children will have in utero exposure to zidovudine and other antiretroviral drugs.
Objective: To evaluate the long-term effects of in utero exposure to zidovudine vs placebo among a randomized cohort of uninfected children.
Design: Prospective cohort study based on data collected during Pediatric AIDS Clinical Trials Group Protocol 076, a perinatal zidovudine HIV prevention trial, and Protocol 219, a long-term observational protocol.
Setting: Pediatric research clinics in the United States.
Patients: Two hundred thirty-four uninfected children born to 230 HIV-infected women enrolled in Protocol 076 and followed up through February 28, 1997, in Protocol 219 (122 in the zidovudine group and 112 in the placebo group).
Main outcome measures: Physical growth measurements, immunologic parameters, cognitive/developmental function, occurrence of neoplasms, and mortality data assessed every 6 months for children younger than 24 months and yearly thereafter or as clinically indicated. Baseline echocardiogram and funduscopic evaluations were collected before 36 months of age.
Results: Median age of children at time of last follow-up visit was 4.2 years (range, 3.2-5.6 years). There were no significant differences between children exposed to zidovudine and those who received placebo in terms of sequential data on lymphocyte subsets; weight, height, and head circumference z scores; and cognitive/developmental function. No deaths or malignancies occurred. Two children (both exposed to zidovudine) are being followed up for abnormal, unexplained ophthalmic findings. One child exposed to zidovudine had a mild cardiomyopathy on echocardiogram at the age of 48 months; the child is clinically asymptomatic.
Conclusions: No adverse effects were observed in HIV-uninfected children with in utero and neonatal exposure to zidovudine followed up for as long as 5.6 years. Continued prospective evaluations of children born to HIV-infected women who are exposed to antiretroviral or immunotherapeutic agents are critical to assess the long-term safety of interventions that prevent perinatal HIV transmission.