Intrapartum Mucosal Exposure to Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 (HIV-1) of Infants Born to HIV-1-Infected Mothers Correlates with Maternal Plasma Virus Burden

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The majority of vertical infections with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) occur at or near delivery, strongly suggesting a mucosal route of transmission. The frequency and level of intrapartum mucosal exposure to HIV-1 of 22 infants born to infected mothers was investigated. Maternal plasma HIV-1 RNA and CD4 cell count were measured at delivery. Infant oropharyngeal aspirates obtained at birth were examined for HIV-1 RNA by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction and qualitative nucleic acid sequence-based amplification. Nine infants (41%) had detectable levels of HIV-1 RNA, 3 of which were quantifiable (mean, 3000 copies/mL). This mucosal exposure to HIV-1 during delivery did not lead to infection of any infant. Cesarian delivery did not reduce mucosal exposure to HIV-1. Mucosal exposure did not correlate with maternal CD4 cell count but did correlate with maternal plasma virus load and was reduced by antiretroviral therapy.

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