Mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) as described for women with an established infection is, in most cases, associated with the transmission of few maternal variants. This study analysed virus variability in four cases of maternal primary infection occurring during pregnancy and/or breastfeeding. Estimated time of seroconversion was at 4 months of pregnancy for one woman (early seroconversion) and during the last months of pregnancy and/or breastfeeding for the remaining three (late seroconversion). The C2V3 envelope region was analysed in samples of mother-child pairs by molecular cloning and sequencing. Comparisons of nucleotide and amino acid sequences as well as phylogenetic analysis were performed. The results showed low variability in the virus population of both mother and child. Maximum-likelihood analysis showed that, in the early pregnancy seroconversion case, a minor viral variant with further evolution in the child was transmitted, which could indicate a selection event in MTCT or a stochastic event, whereas in the late seroconversion cases, the mother's and child's sequences were intermingled, which is compatible with the transmission of multiple viral variants from the mother's major population. These results could be explained by the less pronounced selective pressure exerted by the immune system in the early stages of the mother's infection, which could play a role in MTCT of HIV-1.
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