Zidovudine impairs immunological recovery on first-line antiretroviral therapy: collaborative analysis of cohort studies in southern Africa

Wandeler, Gilles; Gsponer, Thomas; Mulenga, Lloyd; Garone, Daniela; Wood, Robin; Maskew, Mhairi; Prozesky, Hans; Hoffmann, Christopher; Ehmer, Jochen; Dickinson, Diana; Davies, Mary-Ann; Egger, Matthias; Keiser, Olivia (2013). Zidovudine impairs immunological recovery on first-line antiretroviral therapy: collaborative analysis of cohort studies in southern Africa. AIDS, 27(14), pp. 2225-2232. Hagerstown, Md.: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins 10.1097/QAD.0b013e328362d887

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OBJECTIVES Zidovudine (ZDV) is recommended for first-line antiretroviral therapy (ART) in resource-limited settings. ZDV may, however, lead to anemia and impaired immunological response. We compared CD4+ cell counts over 5 years between patients starting ART with and without ZDV in southern Africa. DESIGN Cohort study. METHODS Patients aged at least 16 years who started first-line ART in South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, or Lesotho were included. We used linear mixed-effect models to compare CD4+ cell count trajectories between patients on ZDV-containing regimens and patients on other regimens, censoring follow-up at first treatment change. Impaired immunological recovery, defined as a CD4+ cell count below 100 cells/μl at 1 year, was assessed in logistic regression. Analyses were adjusted for baseline CD4+ cell count and hemoglobin level, age, sex, type of regimen, viral load monitoring, and calendar year. RESULTS A total of 72,597 patients starting ART, including 19,758 (27.2%) on ZDV, were analyzed. Patients on ZDV had higher CD4+ cell counts (150 vs.128 cells/μl) and hemoglobin level (12.0 vs. 11.0 g/dl) at baseline, and were less likely to be women than those on other regimens. Adjusted differences in CD4+ cell counts between regimens containing and not containing ZDV were -16 cells/μl [95% confidence interval (CI) -18 to -14] at 1 year and -56 cells/μl (95% CI -59 to -52) at 5 years. Impaired immunological recovery was more likely with ZDV compared to other regimens (odds ratio 1.40, 95% CI 1.22-1.61). CONCLUSION In southern Africa, ZDV is associated with inferior immunological recovery compared to other backbones. Replacing ZDV with another nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor could avoid unnecessary switches to second-line ART.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine
04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Haematology, Oncology, Infectious Diseases, Laboratory Medicine and Hospital Pharmacy (DOLS) > Clinic of Infectiology

UniBE Contributor:

Wandeler, Gilles; Gsponer, Thomas; Egger, Matthias and Keiser, Olivia


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 360 Social problems & social services
600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health




Lippincott Williams & Wilkins




Doris Kopp Heim

Date Deposited:

16 Jan 2014 14:45

Last Modified:

23 Nov 2016 19:54

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

cohort study, first-line antiretroviral therapy, immunological recovery, southern Africa, zidovudine





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