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Environ Mol Mutagen. 2004;43(1):3-9.

Genetic damage detected in CD-1 mouse pups exposed perinatally to 3'-azido-3'-deoxythymidine and dideoxyinosine via maternal dosing, nursing, and direct gavage.

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  • 1National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 27709, USA.


Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected pregnant women are administered nucleoside-analogue antiretrovirals to reduce maternal-infant viral transmission. The current protocol recommends treating newborns for 6 additional weeks postpartum. The treatment is effective, but the risk of drug-induced chromosomal damage in neonates remains undefined. We used a mouse model to investigate this concern. In a multigeneration reproductive toxicity study, female CD-1 mice received 3'-azido-3'-deoxythymidine (AZT) and dideoxyinosine (ddI) (50/250, 75/375, 150/750 mg/kg/day AZT/ddI) by gavage twice daily in equal fractions beginning prior to mating and continuing throughout gestation and lactation. Direct pup dosing (same regimen) began on postnatal day (PND) 4. Peripheral blood erythrocytes of male pups were screened for micronuclei, markers of chromosomal damage, on PNDs 1, 4, 8, and 21. Extraordinary increases in micronucleated cells were noted in pups for each treatment group at each sampling time; treated dams exhibited smaller yet significant increases in micronucleated erythrocytes. The frequencies of micronucleated cells in untreated pups were higher than in the untreated dams, and all pups had markedly elevated levels of circulating reticulocytes compared to dams. These observations suggest that fetal and neonatal mouse hematopoietic precursor cells have heightened sensitivity to genotoxic agents, perhaps due to rapid cell proliferation during the perinatal period of development. The amount of genetic damage observed in treated pups raises concern for the potential of similar damage in humans. Investigations of chromosomal integrity in exposed newborns and children are recommended.

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