In utero efavirenz, dolutegravir exposure linked to childhood neurologic problems



SAN FRANCISCOChildren exposed to efavirenz in utero were 60% more likely than were those exposed to other antiretrovirals to later develop seizures, eye problems, and other neurologic abnormalities, according to a review of 3,747 children in the Surveillance Monitoring for ART Toxicities (SMARTT) study, an ongoing effort to monitor children exposed to antiretrovirals in the womb.

Overall, 237 children developed a neurologic complication at a mean age of 2; 16 of them were exposed to efavirenz. The study team estimated that 9.6% of children exposed to efavirenz had a neurological complication, versus 6.2% born to women on ART regimens without efavirenz. There was also a nonsignificant trend toward dolutegravir exposure and later neurological abnormalities, which occurred in four of 94 children exposed to the drug. Results were adjusted for maternal smoking and other risk factors.

No other safety signals were detected with the 19 other antiretrovirals analyzed in the study, lead investigator Claudia S. Crowell, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington, Seattle, said at the annual scientific meeting on infectious diseases.

Efavirenz isn’t used much in the United States because there are more effective options with fewer side effects, but current guidelines recommend that women who are doing well on the drug stay on it while pregnant. Meanwhile, dolutegravir exposure at the time of conception was recently linked to an increased risk of neural tube defects in infants. The drug is commonly used in the United States, and guidelines have been strengthened to highlight the need for contraception use by women taking dolutegravir.

Dr. Crowell said she was surprised by her study’s findings, in part because efavirenz is not a teratogen. The work highlights how important it is to look beyond birth defects and follow children exposed to antiretrovirals for later problems. “We still haven’t determined what the safest regimen is for use in pregnancy,” she said.

SOURCE: Crowell C et al. ID Week 2018 abstract LB5.

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