Adverse perinatal outcomes associated with protease inhibitor-based antiretroviral therapy in pregnant women living with HIV: A systematic review and meta-analysis


BACKGROUND: The World Health Organization recommends protease inhibitor (PI)-based antiretroviral therapy (ART) as second-line and third-line regimens in pregnant women living with HIV (WLHIV). US, European, and UK guidelines include PI-based ART as first-line regimens, but advise against the use of lopinavir/ritonavir (LPV/r)-based ART, citing an increased risk of preterm birth (PTB). We aimed to assess the risk of adverse perinatal outcomes in WLHIV receiving PI-ART and the comparative risks associated with different PI-ART regimens. METHODS: We conducted a systematic literature review by searching PubMed, CINAHL, Global Health, and EMBASE for studies published between Jan 1, 1980, and April 20, 2020. Two investigators independently selected studies and extracted data from studies reporting on the association of pregnant WLHIV receiving PI-ART with 11 perinatal outcomes: PTB, very PTB (VPTB), spontaneous PTB (sPTB), low birth weight (LBW), very LBW (VLBW), term LBW, preterm LBW, small for gestational age (SGA), very SGA (VSGA), stillbirth, and neonatal death. Pairwise random-effects meta-analyses examined the risk of each adverse perinatal outcome in WLHIV receiving PI-ART compared to non-PI-based ART (non-PI-ART), and comparisons of different PI-ART regimens. Quality assessments of studies were performed, subgroup and sensitivity analyses were conducted based on country income status and study quality, heterogeneity assessed, and the effect of adjustment for confounding factors assessed. The protocol is registered with PROSPERO, CRD42021248987. FINDINGS: Of 94,594 studies identified, 34 cohort studies including 57,546 women met the inclusion criteria. Random-effects meta-analyses showed that PI-ART was associated with a significantly increased risk of SGA (Relative Risk [RR] 1.24, 95% CI 1.08–1.43; I2 =66.7%) and VSGA (RR 1.40, 1.09–1.81; I2 =0.0%), but not PTB (RR 1.09, 0.95–1.24; I2 =68.3%), VPTB (RR 1.30, 0.78–2.18; I2 =43.0%), sPTB (RR 1.91, 0.61–5.99; I2 =95.7%), LBW (RR 1.04, 0.85–1.27; I2 =63.9%), VLBW (RR 0.72, 0.37–1.43; I2 =37.9%), term LBW (RR 0.94, 0.30–3.02; I2 =0.0%), stillbirth (RR 1.04, 0.60–1.79; I2 =0.0%), and neonatal death (RR 1.82, 0.97–3.40; I2 =0.0%), compared to non-PI-ART. We found no significant differences in perinatal outcomes between ART regimens containing LPV/r, atazanavir/ritonavir (ATV/r), and darunavir/ritonavir (DRV/r), which are the most commonly used PIs. INTERPRETATION: PI-ART is associated with an increased risk of SGA and VSGA, but not PTB or other perinatal outcomes. No significant differences in perinatal outcomes were found between LPV/r, ATV/r, and DRV/r. These findings should inform clinical guidelines, and further efforts should be made to improve perinatal outcomes among pregnant WLHIV.


Cowdell I, Beck K, Portwood C, Sexton H, Kumarendran M, Brandon Z, Kirtley S, Hemelaar J




  • Epidemiology and Determinants of Health
    • Epidemiology
  • Population(s)
    • Women
    • General HIV+ population
  • Prevention, Engagement and Care Cascade
    • Engagement and Care Cascade
  • Engagement and Care Cascade
    • Treatment


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