Children born to mothers, with or at risk, of human immunodeficiency virus type-1 (HIV-1) infection are on the rise due to affordable access of antiretroviral therapy (ART) to pregnant women or those of childbearing age. Each year, up to 1.3 million HIV-1-infected women on ART have given birth with recorded mother-to-child HIV-1 transmission rates of less than 1%. Despite this benefit, the outcomes of children exposed to antiretroviral drugs during pregnancy, especially pre- and post- natal neurodevelopment remain incompletely understood. This is due, in part, to the fact that pregnant women are underrepresented in clinical trials. This is underscored by any potential risks of neural tube defects (NTDs) linked, in measure, to periconceptional usage of dolutegravir (DTG). A potential association between DTG and NTDs was first described in Botswana in 2018. Incidence studies of neurodevelopmental outcomes associated with DTG, and other integrase strand transfer inhibitors (INSTIs) are limited as widespread use of INSTIs has begun only recently in pregnant women. Therefore, any associations between INSTI use during pregnancy, and neurodevelopmental abnormalities remain to be explored. Herein, United States Food and Drug Administration approved ARVs and their use during pregnancy are discussed. We provide updates on INSTI pharmacokinetics and adverse events during pregnancy together with underlying mechanisms which could affect fetal neurodevelopment. Overall, this review seeks to educate both clinical and basic scientists on potential consequences of INSTIs on fetal outcomes as a foundation for future scientific investigations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1533
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • HIV-1
  • adverse events
  • antiretroviral drugs
  • integrase strand transfer inhibitor
  • neurodevelopment
  • pregnancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery


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