Send to

Choose Destination
mSphere. 2019 Oct 23;4(5). pii: e00716-19. doi: 10.1128/mSphere.00716-19.

Maternal Humoral Immune Responses Do Not Predict Postnatal HIV-1 Transmission Risk in Antiretroviral-Treated Mothers from the IMPAACT PROMISE Study.

Author information

Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, North Carolina, USA.
Center for Biostatistics in AIDS Research, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Duke Human Vaccine Institute, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, North Carolina, USA.
Department of Surgery, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, North Carolina, USA.
Department of Pediatrics, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, North Carolina, USA.
University of North Carolina Project-Malawi, Lilongwe, Malawi.
Johns Hopkins University Research Project, Blantyre, Malawi.
Byramjee Jeejeebhoy Government Medical College, Pune, Maharashtra, India.
Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa and School of Clinical Medicine, College of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu Natal, Durban, South Africa.
Johns Hopkins University Research Collaboration, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda.
Department of Pathology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
Duke Human Vaccine Institute, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, North Carolina, USA


To design immune interventions that can synergize with antiretroviral therapy (ART) to reduce the rate of HIV mother-to-child transmission (MTCT), it is essential to characterize maternal immune responses in the setting of ART during pregnancy and breastfeeding and define their effect on MTCT. Prior studies reported an association between breast milk envelope (Env)-specific antibodies and antibody-dependent cell cytotoxicity (ADCC) activity with reduced postnatal transmission. In this study, we investigated whether these immune correlates were similarly associated with protection in a matched case-control study of mother-infant pairs receiving maternal ART or infant nevirapine prophylaxis during breastfeeding in the International Maternal-Pediatric-Adolescent AIDS Clinical Trials Network Promoting Maternal-Infant Survival Everywhere (PROMISE) trial, assessing postnatal transmission risk in 19 transmitting and 57 nontransmitting mothers using conditional logistic regression models adjusted for maternal plasma viral load. The odds ratios of postnatal MTCT for a 1-unit increase in an immune correlate were 3.61 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.56, 23.14) for breast milk Env-specific secretory IgA (sIgA), 2.32 (95% CI, 0.43, 12.56) for breast milk and 2.16 (95% CI, 0.51, 9.14) for plasma Env-specific IgA, and 4.57 (95% CI, 0.68, 30.48) for breast milk and 0.96 (95% CI, 0.25, 3.67) for plasma ADCC activity, with all CIs spanning 1.0. Interestingly, although mucosal IgA responses are poor in untreated HIV-infected women, there was a strong correlation between the magnitudes of breast milk and plasma Env-specific IgA in this cohort. In this analysis of the small number of postnatal virus transmissions in the landmark PROMISE study, no single antibody response was associated with breast milk transmission risk.IMPORTANCE Each year, >150,000 infants become newly infected with HIV-1 through MTCT despite ART, with up to 42% of infections occurring during breastfeeding. Several factors contribute to continued pediatric infections, including ART nonadherence, the emergence of drug-resistant HIV strains, acute infection during breastfeeding, and poor access to ART in resource-limited areas. A better understanding of the maternal humoral immune responses that provide protection against postnatal transmission in the setting of ART is critical to guide the design of maternal vaccine strategies to further eliminate postnatal HIV transmission. In this study, we found that in women treated with antiretrovirals during pregnancy, there was a positive correlation between plasma viral load and breast milk and plasma IgA responses; however, conclusions regarding odds of MTCT risk were limited by the small sample size. These findings will inform future studies to investigate maternal immune interventions that can synergize with ART to eliminate MTCT during breastfeeding.


ADCC; HIV-1; antibodies; antiretroviral therapy; breast milk; postnatal transmission

Free full text

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for American Society for Microbiology
Loading ...
Support Center