Intrapartum use of zidovudine in a large cohort of pregnant women living with HIV in Italy

Published:August 17, 2022DOI:


      • Peripartum HIV-RNA is the strongest factor influencing vertical transmission of HIV.
      • When HIV-RNA is <50 copies/mL, ART discontinuation is the strongest risk factor.
      • Intrapartum ZDV has no effect on transmission in women with HIV RNA <50 copies/mL.
      • The administration of unnecessary zidovudine may be perceived as a stigma.
      • Study of the U=U concept in mother-child couple could help fight stigma.



      Intravenous administration of zidovudine (ZDV) during labour is a key step for vertical HIV transmission (VT) prevention, but there is no evidence of benefit when maternal HIV-RNA at delivery is <50 copies/mL. The aim of this study is evaluating the appropriateness of intrapartum ZDV use in Italy.


      Observational study including mother-infant pairs with perinatal HIV exposure during 2002-2019, enrolled in the Italian Register for HIV Infection in Children. Univariable and multivariable logistic regression were used to evaluate factors associated with VT.


      A total of 3,861 infants, born from 3,791 pregnancies were included. The frequency of ZDV use was 79.9%, 92.1%, 93.7% and 92.8% when HIV-RNA was not available, ≥400 copies, between 50 and 399 copies, and <50 copies/mL. Thirty-three out of 3861 (0.85%) infants were subsequently diagnosed with HIV, 25/3861 (0.6%) of them born to mothers receiving intrapartum ZDV, and 31 (93.9%) to mothers with HIV-RNA ≥50 copies/mL or not available. In women with HIV-RNA < 50 copies/mL, ART discontinuation during pregnancy was the strongest risk factor for VT (odds ratio, OR, 23.1, 95%CI 2.4-219.3), while a higher gestational age (OR 0.6, 95%CI 0.4-0.8) and PEP administration to the newborn (aOR 0.004, 95%CI <0.0001-0.4) were protective factors. Intrapartum ZDV administration did not influence the final outcome in this group.


      In ART era, more transmission events may occur in utero, limiting value of intrapartum ZDV, particularly for women with suppressed HIV-RNA load. More attention to the HIV-RNA testing of mothers before delivery may avoid unnecessary ZDV use.


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