HIV can be transmitted to a child via breastfeeding, but despite this chronic, daily exposure to the virus through breast milk, only 1 in 10 HIV-infected nursing mothers passes the virus to her infant. Scientists now think they know why: antibodies from B cells in mother’s milk neutralize HIV-1, the most common strain of the virus, according to research published earlier this month (May 18) in PLoS One.
Researchers from Duke University isolated B cells from the breast milk of an HIV-infected lactating woman in Malawi 3 days after the birth of her child. They identified two antibodies, CH07 and CH08, that bind and neutralize HIV-1.
The finding could help researchers design an HIV-1 vaccine, the authors said. “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,” author Sallie Permar, an assistant professor of pediatrics and infectious diseases at Duke, said in a press release.