Role of immunity of maternal-infant HIV-1 transmission

M. Jansson, P. Orlandi, G. Scarlatti, V. Moschese, M. L. Romiti, C. Cancrini, L. Mancia, S. Livadiotti, G. Castelli-Gattinara, P. Rossi, E. Halapi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Factors influencing human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) mother- to-child transmission include both immunological and virological parameters; higher viral loads have been associated with clinical stage of HIV-1-infected individuals as well as higher risk of mother-to-child transmission. Furthermore, we have shown that transmitting mothers more frequently harbour HIV-1 isolates with rapid/high syncytium-inducing (SI) biological phenotype than non-transmitting mothers do. Genetically homogeneous virus populations have been found in HIV-1 infected children at birth, in contrast to the heterogeneous virus populations often found in their infected mothers. This observation suggests that a few virus variants are transmitted or initially are replicating in the child. By comparing the HIV-1 gp120 V3 region of sequentially obtained samples from infected children with samples obtained from their mothers at delivery we found, however, that multiple variants of HIV-1 with different outgrowth kinetics can be transmitted. In addition, we have obtained results indicating an impaired ability of the immune response to adapt to the sequence evolution of HIV-1 in transmitting mothers, as assessed by measuring serum reactivities to peptides representing selected yet closely related V3 sequences. By analysing the presence of antibodies in maternal serum at delivery, which neutralize autologous isolates as well as other primary virus isolates, we have indications that a protective immunity in HIV-1 mother-to-child transmission might exist. Immunotherapy has been assessed in infected adult individuals by passive immunization with a variety of HIV-1-specific antibody products. Data from these studies indicated a differential response to therapy according to the stage of the disease. Active vaccine strategies, including envelope glycoproteins, pursued so far in seronegative adult subjects have shown limitations because broadly neutralizing antibodies, such as can be found in infected individuals, have not been evoked. Further investigations are therefore needed to give support for the potential use of either passive and/or active immunization for the prevention of HIV-1 mother-to-child transmission.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-45
Number of pages7
JournalActa Paediatrica, International Journal of Paediatrics, Supplement
Issue number421
Publication statusPublished - 1997


  • HIV-1 mother-to-child transmission
  • Immunization
  • Neutralizing antibodies
  • Virus genotype

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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