Quantitative assessment of cell-associated and cell-free virus in cervicovaginal samples of HIV-1-infected women

Maurizia Debiaggi, Arsenio Spinillo, Francesca Zara, Antonella De Santolo, Roberto Brerra, Renato Maserati, Egidio Romero, Gaetano Filice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objective: To examine the amount of cell-free and cell-associated virus in cervicovaginal secretions (CVS) of HIV-infected women. Methods: Paired cervicovaginal and blood samples from 61 seropositive women were quantitatively evaluated by competitive polymerase chain reaction (cPCR) and reverse transcription-PCR (cRT-PCR) for: (1) genomic RNA from plasma and cell-free CVS, and (2) unspliced (u/s) RNA transcripts and proviral DNA in cells from secretions. Results: HIV DNA was detected in 42.6%, u/s transcripts in 32.7% and cell-free HIV RNA in 31.1% of 61 cervicovaginal samples. The median copy numbers of HIV DNA, u/s transcripts, and cell-free RNA were 125 copies/105 cells, 40 copies/105 cells, and 300 copies/mL of secretion, respectively. Nineteen of 26 (73.1%) and 17 of 26 (65.3%) women positive for DNA were also positive for RNA transcripts and cell-free RNA, respectively (P <0.001). A significant correlation between the amounts of cell-free and u/s transcripts was also found (Spearman Rho 0.618, P = 0.014). The prevalences of u/s transcripts and cell-free RNA were 42.6% and 53.8% respectively among patients with detectable blood RNA, and 22.9% (P = 0.09) and 14.3% (P = 0.0017) among patients with undetectable blood RNA. In stepwise logistic regression, cell-free RNA was independently associated with the presence of detectable blood viremia. The amount of HIV DNA was lower among subjects currently under treatment (50 copies/105 cells) than in untreated subjects (250 copies/105 cells) (P = 0.037). Conclusions: Both cell-free and cell-associated HIV could he detected and quantitated in CVS, providing a means to examine the level of viral activity in the female genital tract.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)605-611
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Microbiology and Infection
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1999



  • Cervicovaginal secretions
  • HIV quantitation
  • HIV-1
  • Polymerase chain reaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)

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