Syncytium-inhibiting and neutralizing activity in maternal sera fail to prevent vertical transmission of human immunodeficiency virus type 1

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ObjectivesTo measure the prevalence and titers of syncytium-inhibiting (SI) and neutralizing (Nt) antibodies to HIV-1 in mothers' blood close to the time of delivery and to correlate such findings with the infection status of their offspring.MethodsWe analyzed serum specimens from a convenience sample of 22 HIV-infected mothers. The HIV-1 infection status of their children was determined. Forty-five percent of the women transmitted and 55% did not transmit infection to their offspring. Cord blood samples from offspring of the mothers were also studied. We measured maternal SI antibody titers against cells infected with HIV-1/SB, a strain isolated from a transmitting mother in New Haven, as well as cells infected with the more prevalent MN strain of HIV-1. We compared SI antibody titers to the SB strain in 11 matched maternal and cord blood samples. Nt antibody titers to HIV-1/SB were also measured in 20 maternal sera.ResultsUsing the SB and MN strains of HIV-1, we found no difference in the prevalence or titer of SI antibody in the sera of transmitting and nontransmitting mothers. Only 35% of samples were concordant for presence or absence of SI antibody to the two strains. Furthermore the presence or absence of SI antibody in cord blood did not correlate with virus transmission. Both the frequency and titer of Nt antibody to HIV-1/SB were higher in the sera of mothers who transmitted infection when compared to those who did not. Only one-half of maternal blood samples were concordant for either the presence or absence of SI and Nt antibodies.ConclusionsWe could not demonstrate a correlation between the presence of two types of functional antibodies (i.e. SI and Nt) to HIV-1 in the sera of pregnant women and vertical transmission. Efforts to induce or to increase such antibodies in infected mothers by immunization with vaccines or hyperimmune globulins may not alter the risk of vertical transmission.

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