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Trop Med Int Health. 2013 Nov;18(11):1400-5. doi: 10.1111/tmi.12194. Epub 2013 Sep 16.

Low prevalence of renal dysfunction in HIV-infected pregnant women: implications for guidelines for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

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School of Public Health & Family Medicine, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa; Desmond Tutu HIV Centre, Institute of Infectious Diseases & Molecular Medicine, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa.



Emerging international guidelines for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV infection across sub-Saharan Africa call for the initiation of a triple-drug antiretroviral regimen containing tenofovir, a potentially nephrotoxic agent, in all HIV-infected pregnant women at the first antenatal clinic visit. While there are significant benefits to the rapid initiation of antiretroviral therapy (ART) in pregnancy, there are few data on the prevalence of pre-existing renal disease in HIV-infected pregnant women and in turn, the potential risks of this approach are not well understood.


We analysed data on renal function in consecutive patients eligible for ART at a large primary healthcare clinic in Cape Town. All individuals were screened for renal dysfunction via serum creatinine and estimation of creatinine clearance via the Cockroft-Gault equation.


Over a 2-year period, 238 pregnant women, 1014 non-pregnant women and 609 men were screened to initiate ART. Pregnant women eligible were significantly younger, in earlier stages of HIV disease, had higher CD4 cell counts and lower HIV viral loads, than non-pregnant adults. The median serum creatinine in pregnant women (46 µmol/L) was significantly lower and the median creatinine clearance (163 ml/min/1.73 m(2) ) was significantly higher than other groups (P < 0.001 and P = 0.004, respectively). Fewer than 1% of pregnant women had moderate renal dysfunction before ART initiation, with no instances of severe dysfunction observed, compared to 7% moderate or severe renal dysfunction in non-pregnant women or men (P < 0.001).


Renal dysfunction in HIV-infected pregnant women is significantly less common than in other HIV-infected adults eligible for ART. The risks associated with initiating tenofovir immediately in pregnant women before reviewing serum creatinine results may be limited, and the benefits of rapid ART initiation in pregnancy may outweigh possible risks of nephrotoxicity.


HIV/AIDS; antiretroviral therapy; kidney function; pregnancy; prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission

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