The findings of two different antibodies with HIV-neutralizing properties isolated from breast milk also may help researchers with new investigations into adult-to-adult transmission, in addition to mother-to-child transmission.
Permar said that most HIV-1 transmission occurs at a mucosal site in the body surfaces lined with epithelial cells, such as the gastrointestinal tract or vaginal tissue. The mucosal compartments all have their own immune system cells.
"We're excited about this finding because the immune cells in mucosal compartments can cross-talk and traffic between compartments," Permar said. "So the antibodies we found in breast milk indicate that these same antibodies are able to be elicited in other tissues."
Interestingly, the Centers for Disease Control in the U.S. recommend against breastfeeding if a mother has HIV-1, because baby formula is a safe alternative for U.S.-born infants. The World Health Organization, however, encourages HIV-infected nursing mothers in resource-poor regions to breastfeed while the mother and/or infant take antiretroviral drugs to prevent the infection in the infant, because without the nutrients and immune factors in mothers' milk, many more infants would die from severe diarrhea and respiratory and other diseases.
At the DHVI and CHAVI, there are many projects aimed at designing neutralizing responses in vaccinated individuals, and for improved vaccines that display specific targets to the immune system before it gets infected, with the idea of eliciting protective responses that fight against HIV transmission. "Our work will be important in eliminating mother-to-child transmission and getting the types of responses needed for protecting all infants," Permar said.
The study itself wasn't easy to perform, she noted. The samples came from a group of women in Malawi who were recruited by CHAVI for th
|Contact: Mary Jane Gore|
Duke University Medical Center