Exposure to HIV-1 during delivery and mother-to-child transmission.

Document Type



Obstetrics and Gynaecology (East Africa)



The correlation between the presence of HIV-1 in maternal cervico-vaginal secretions and in the infant's oro-pharyngal secretions at birth, and mother-to-child HIV transmission (MTCT) were examined to obtain a better understanding of its mechanism.


Women without medical and obstetrical complications, living within a reasonable distance of the government hospital in Mombasa, Kenya, were recruited after informed consent. Maternal and infant characteristics were collected. Polymerase chain reaction was used to detect HIV-1 in cervico-vaginal and oro-pharyngal secretions. Infants were tested for HIV-1 by polymerase chain reaction within 48 h and at 6 weeks after delivery.


Between April 1998 and April 1999, 228 woman–infant pairs were included in the study. HIV-1 DNA in cervico-vaginal secretions was independently associated with HIV-1 maternal viral load and with infant birth-weight, whereas HIV-1 RNA was associated with maternal viral load and maternal age. HIV-1 DNA in the oro-pharyngal secretions was also independently associated with maternal viral load. MTCT rate at the age of 6 weeks was 23.6%. Intrapartum and early postpartum HIV transmission was independently associated with maternal viral load [adjusted odds ratio (OR), 1.6; 95% confidence interval (CI),1.0–2.7], detection of HIV-1 RNA in cervico-vaginal secretions (adjusted OR, 3.2; 95% CI, 1.5–7.3) and of HIV-1 DNA in oro-pharyngal secretions (adjusted OR, 3.2; 95% CI, 1.1–9.0).


As far as is known, this is the first study showing that infant exposure to HIV-1 in the birth canal and the presence of HIV-infected cells in the infant's oro-pharyngal cavity are independently associated with intrapartum and early postpartum MTCT. It supports the hypothesis that MTCT could occur through the oral route.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.

Publication (Name of Journal)