Limits on oral transmission of HIV-1

Lancet. 2000 Jul 22;356(9226):272. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(00)02500-9.


PIP: This article discusses the potential of acquiring an HIV-1 infection through an oral route, with a view of offering clues for its prevention. In a study of adult animals given low concentration cell-free simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) orally, histological examination suggested that SIV infected lymphoid tissue through the antigen-transporting crypt epithelium rather than through dendritic cells. The investigators found no evidence of acquiring SIV via the gastrointestinal tract. For humans, HIV transmission from saliva or intimate family contact seems to be extremely rare. This could be because of the low concentration of HIV-1 in saliva. A study of 40 people found that significantly less HIV was found in salivary secretions than in plasma. Another possible explanation for inefficient oral transmission might be that HIV-1 in the oropharynx is inhibited by components found in salivary secretions. Conversely, studies have noted that risk of oral transmission of HIV from contaminated breast milk and semen is higher than from saliva. Breast-feeding by an HIV-infected woman puts the baby at substantial risk of infection and receptive fellatio cannot be considered a safe sex act.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Transmission, Infectious
  • HIV Infections / transmission*
  • HIV-1*
  • Humans
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Milk, Human / virology
  • Saliva / virology
  • Semen / virology