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Role of regulatory T cells in mother to child transmission of HIV


Peter A Kessler

Mother-to-child transmission of HIV-1 occurs in a minority of
HIV-infected mother-infant pairs, even without any
interventions. The mechanisms that protect the majority of
HIV-exposed infants from infection are unclear. T regulatory
cells (Treg) have important immunomodulatory functions, but
their role in the fetus as well as in mother-to-child
transmission of HIV is understudied. Methods: We studied
available cryopreserved peripheral blood mononuclear cells
from HIV-exposed infants from the breastfeeding,
antiretrovirals and nutrition (BAN) study cohort in Malawi: 64
infants were HIV-uninfected and 28 infants were HIV-infected
at birth. We quantified the frequency of Treg cells
(CD4+CD25+FoxP3+), and activated CD4+ and CD8+ T cells
(CD38+HLADR+) by flow cytometry at birth, 6 weeks and 6, 9
and 12 months of age. Descriptive statistics were performed
to describe the distributions of these lymphocyte markers
according to HIV infection status; and Student’s t-tests and
Wilcoxon-Rank Sum tests to perform comparisons between
HIV- infected and uninfected infants. Results: T cell activation
increased rapidly in the first 6 weeks of life more pronounced
on CD8+T cells; a further increase in activation was observed
at the time of weaning from breastfeeding at 6 months of age.

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