Virus Home > Zidovudine

Zidovudine is a medicine that is prescribed to treat HIV and AIDS. It is also used for preventing the transmission of the HIV virus from a pregnant woman to her unborn child. Zidovudine, which is typically used in combination with other HIV medications, is available in tablets, capsules, and syrup. Possible side effects include headache, loss of appetite, and nausea.

What Is Zidovudine?

Zidovudine (Retrovir®) is a prescription medication used to treat HIV infection and AIDS. It is approved to treat HIV and to help prevent pregnant women with the virus from spreading it to their babies. Zidovudine was the first HIV medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is also known as azidothymidine (AZT for short) or ZDV.
 
(Click What Is Zidovudine Used For? for more information on this topic, including possible off-label uses.)
 

Who Makes It?

Zidovudine is made by GlaxoSmithKline.
 

How Does Zidovudine Work?

Zidovudine is part of a group of HIV medications known as nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs). These drugs work by blocking a process that the HIV virus needs in order to multiply.
 
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that causes AIDS. Like other viruses, it must use a host's own cells to reproduce. However, HIV is a little different from other viruses because it must first convert its genetic material from RNA to DNA. It is the DNA genes that allow HIV to multiply.
 
HIV converts its genetic material by using a special protein called the reverse transcriptase enzyme. To create DNA, this enzyme uses several different molecular building-blocks.
 
Zidovudine works by tricking reverse transcriptase into thinking it is one of these molecular building-blocks. However, it is just different enough that when used to create DNA, zidovudine actually stops the DNA from being made. Without DNA, HIV cannot multiply.
 
Zidovudine is not a cure for HIV or AIDS. It can help stop HIV from infecting healthy cells in the body, but it does not help cells that have already been infected with the virus.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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