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J Infect Dis. 1999 Jan;179(1):59-67.

Epidemiologic and biologic characterization of a cohort of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 highly exposed, persistently seronegative female sex workers in northern Thailand. Chiang Mai HEPS Working Group.

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  • 1Division of Retrovirology, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Bethesda, MD, USA.


Characterization of persons highly exposed to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1 who remain uninfected may help define protective immunity. Seventeen HIV-1-seronegative Thai female sex workers (CSWs) with epidemiologic evidence of exposure to HIV-1 were studied for humoral immune responses and phenotypic and genotypic analyses of HLA class I and CCR5 allelic profiles. Infected CSWs and low-risk HIV-1-seronegative Thai women were controls. Highly exposed, persistently seronegative (HEPS) CSWs did not differ from HIV-infected CSWs in HIV risks, condom use, or sexually transmitted diseases. Significant differences were seen in humoral immune responses: gp160-specific IgA responses were detected in cervicovaginal lavage fluids in 6 of 13 HEPS CSWs but 0 of 21 seronegative subjects. All women had wild-type CCR5. HEPS CSWs were more likely to have the HLA-B18 phenotype and genotype than were matched controls (corrected P=.018). Epidemiologic exposure to HIV-1 without apparent infection, an unusual distribution of HLA class I alleles, and HIV-1 gp160-specific IgA responses suggest a biologic basis for this phenomenon.

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