Elevated cytokine and chemokine levels in the placenta are associated with in-utero HIV-1 mother-to-child transmission

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To determine whether there is an association between cytokine and chemokine levels in plasma isolated from the placenta and HIV-1 mother-to-child transmission (MTCT).


We designed a case–control study of HIV-infected, pregnant women enrolled in the Malaria and HIV in Pregnancy cohort. Participants were recruited in Blantyre, Malawi, from 2000 to 2004. Patients were women whose children were HIV-1 DNA-positive at birth (in-utero MTCT) or HIV-1 DNA-negative at birth and HIV-1 DNA-positive at 6 weeks postpartum (intrapartum MTCT); controls were women whose children were HIV-1 DNA-negative both at birth and 6 weeks postpartum.


After delivery, blood was isolated from an incision on the basal plate of the placenta. We used a Bio-Plex human cytokine assay (Bio-Rad, Hercules, California USA) to simultaneously quantify 27 cytokines, chemokines and growth factors in placental plasma. HIV-1 RNA copies were quantified with the Roche Amplicor kit.


Levels of interleukin (IL) 4, IL-5, IL-6, IL-7, IL-9, eotaxin, IL-1Ra and interferon gamma-induced protein 10 (IP-10) were significantly elevated in placental plasma isolated from cases of in-utero HIV-1 MTCT. In contrast, only granulocyte colony-stimulating factor was elevated in placental plasma isolated from cases of intrapartum MTCT. After adjusting for maternal age, gestational age and peripheral CD4+ T-cell count, every log10 increase in placental IP-10 was associated with a three-fold increase in the prevalence of in-utero HIV-1 MTCT.


Elevated cytokine and chemokine levels in placental plasma were associated with in-utero and not intrapartum MTCT. IP-10, which is both a T-cell chemokine and potentiator of HIV-replication, was robustly and independently associated with prevalent, in-utero MTCT.

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