Breast milk transmission of HIV is a leading cause of infant HIV/AIDS in the developing world. Remarkably, only a small minority of breastfeeding infants born to HIV-infected mothers contract HIV via breast milk exposure, raising the possibility that immune factors in the breast milk confer protection to the infants who remain uninfected. To model HIV-specific immunity in breast milk, lactation was pharmacologically induced in Mamu-A*01+ female rhesus monkeys. The composition of lymphocyte subsets in hormone-induced lactation breast milk was found to be similar to that in natural lactation breast milk. Hormone-induced lactating monkeys were inoculated i.v. with SIVmac251 and CD8+ T lymphocytes specific for two immunodominant SIV epitopes, Gag p11C and Tat TL8, and SIV viral load were monitored in peripheral blood and breast milk during acute infection. The breast milk viral load was 1-2 logs lower than plasma viral load through peak and set point of viremia. Surprisingly, whereas the kinetics of the SIV-specific cellular immunity in breast milk mirrored that of the blood, the peak magnitude of the SIV-specific CD8+ T lymphocyte response in breast milk was more than twice as high as the cellular immune response in the blood. Furthermore, the appearance of the SIV-specific CD8+ T lymphocyte response in breast milk was associated with a reduction in breast milk viral load, and this response remained higher than that in the blood after viral set point. This robust viral-specific cellular immune response in breast milk may contribute to control of breast milk virus replication.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy