The design of immunologic interventions to prevent postnatal transmission of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) will require identification of protective immune responses in this setting. Simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV)-infected rhesus monkeys (RMs), a species that develops an AIDS-like illness following experimental infection, transmit the virus at a high rate during breastfeeding. In contrast, postnatal transmission of SIV occurs rarely or not at all in natural, asymptomatic primate hosts of SIV. These contrasting transmission patterns provide a unique opportunity to study mechanisms that evolved to protect suckling infants from SIV infection. We compared the virologic and immunologic properties of milk of SIV-infected and uninfected natural hosts of SIV, African green monkeys (AGMs), to that of RMs. Interestingly, despite a low number of milk CD4 + T lymphocytes in uninfected AGMs, milk virus RNA load in SIV-infected AGMs was comparable to that of SIV-infected RMs and that in AGM plasma. This observation is in contrast to the relatively low virus load in milk compared to that in plasma of SIV-infected RMs and HIV-infected women. Milk of SIV-infected AGMs also displayed robust virus-specific cellular immune responses. Importantly, an autologous challenge virus-specific neutralization response was detected in milk of five of six SIV-infected AGMs that was comparable in magnitude to that in plasma. In contrast, autologous challenge virus neutralization was not detectable in milk of SIV-infected RMs. The autologous virus-specific adaptive immune responses in breast milk of AGMs may contribute to impedance of virus transmission in the infant oral/gastrointestinal tract and the rarity of postnatal virus transmission in natural hosts of SIV.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science