Mother to children transmission (MTCT) rates for HIV can be greatly reduced with anti-retroviral medications. However, according to researchers, a clinical study has not established the effectiveness and safety of oral zidovudine (ZDV) in infants. The treatment protocol is also lacking clinical guidance and support. A new study published in the journal BMC Pregnancy Childbirth examines the effectiveness of postnatal ZDV therapy at preventing MTCT of HIV.

About 120 woman/infant pairs participated in the study. Births took place between 2000 and 2010. Infants were placed in risk groups based on risk factors for infection – low risk, high risk, and very high risk.

Conclusion: Overall MTCT occurred in 1.8% of mother/infant pairs. Only 1.4% of infants in the low-risk group treated with a two-week course of ZDV contracted HIV. No infection rates were listed for the high risk and very high-risk groups. Even if ZDV is used only in low-risk populations, MTCT rates reduce significantly with just two weeks of treatment.

Neubert J, Pfeffer M, Borkhardt A, Niehues T, Adams O, Bolten M, Reuter S, Stannigel H, Laws HJ. Risk-adapted transmission prophylaxis to prevent vertical HIV-1 transmission: Effectiveness and safety of an abbreviated regimen of postnatal oral Zidovudine. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2013 Jan 24;13(1):22.