Antibodies isolated from infected mothers' breast milk can inhibit the virus that causes AIDS, says a new discovery.
HIV-1 can be transmitted from mother to child via breastfeeding, posing a challenge for safe infant feeding practices in areas of high HIV-1 prevalence. But only one in 10 HIV-infected nursing mothers is known to pass the virus to their infants.
"That is remarkable, because nursing children are exposed multiple times each day during their first year of life," said senior author Sallie Permar, assistant professor of paediatrics and infectious diseases at Duke University Medical Centre (DUMC).
"We are asking if there is an immune response that protects 90 percent of infants, and could we harness that response to develop immune system prophylaxis (protection) during breastfeeding for mothers infected with HIV-1," Permar, who led the study, was quoted as saying in the journal Public library of Science.
"Our work helped establish that these B-cells in breast milk can produce HIV-neutralizing antibodies, so enhancing the response or getting more mucosal B-cells to produce those helpful antibodies would be useful, and this is a possible route to explore for HIV-1 vaccine development," Permar said, according to a university statement.
"This is important work that seeks to understand what a vaccine must do to protect babies from mucosal transmission during breastfeeding," said Barton Haynes, M.D., study co-author and a national leader in AIDS/HIV research who is also director of the Intre for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology (CHAVI), as well as director of the Duke Human Vaccine Institute (DHVI).
"The antibodies isolated are the first HIV antibodies isolated from breast milk that react with the HIV-1 envelope, and it important to understand how they work to attack HIV-1," added Haynes.