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Antivir Ther. 2008;13(5):729-32.

Is transmission of HIV-1 in non-viraemic serodiscordant couples possible?

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JW Goethe University Hospital, Institute for Medical Virology, Frankfurt, Germany.


Several studies have shown that HIV-1 transmission in serodiscordant couples is significantly reduced when the plasma viral load (pVL) in the infected partner is low or undetectable. However, residual infectivity in the seminal compartment despite undetectable pVL has also been shown. Here we report HIV-1 transmission in a serodiscordant couple despite successful antiretroviral therapy of the HIV-infected partner. The newly infected partner had a negative HIV-1 screening ELISA when his HIV-1-positive partner was already on antiretroviral treatment with undetectable pVL, which remained undetectable beyond the time of seroconversion in the initially negative partner. Frozen blood samples were analyzed phylogenetically from the HIV-1-positive patient and the newly infected partner before treatment and shortly after seroconversion, respectively; they showed a true relationship. On the basis of these data, the present report suggests that transmission of HIV-1 can occur despite undetectable pVL. This should be added to the discussion of prevention strategies, which should not advise the abandonment of safer-sex practices without referring to the relatively low but not impossible risk of HIV-1 transmission in this context.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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