Leukocyte telomere length in HIV-infected pregnant women treated with antiretroviral drugs during pregnancy and their uninfected infants.
ABSTRACT HIV disease can lead to accelerated telomere attrition, although certain drugs used as part of antiretroviral therapy (ART) can inhibit telomerase reverse transcriptase activity. This could in turn lead to shorter telomeres. We hypothesized that HIV and ART exposure would be associated with shorter leukocyte telomere length (TL) in exposed mother/infant pairs compared with controls.
In these retrospective and prospective observational cohort studies, TL was evaluated in peripheral blood leukocytes obtained from HIV-infected pregnant women treated with ART and their uninfected infants, and compared with HIV untreated (retrospective cohort) or HIV mothers and their infants (prospective cohort).
In HIV-infected ART-exposed mothers, leukocyte TL was not significantly shorter than that in HIV untreated mothers or HIV controls, nor was their infants' TL significantly different. Cord blood of ART-exposed infants exhibited TL shorter than that from infants born to HIV-negative mothers. Placenta also showed evidence of shorter TL after adjustment for relevant covariates. Factors associated with shorter maternal and infant TL included smoking and the use of drugs of addiction in pregnancy.
These results suggest that maternal HIV infection or exposure to ART has minimal effect on infant leukocyte TL, a reassuring finding. In contrast, tissues that express higher telomerase activity such as umbilical cord blood and placenta appear comparatively more affected by ART. Smoking and the use of drugs of addiction have a negative impact on maternal and infant leukocyte TL, possibly through oxidative telomere damage.