Objectives: To estimate the risk of HIV-1 transmission through breast-milk in children born to infected mothers, and to determine the relationship between duration of breast-feeding and risk.
Design and methods: The study population included 168 breast-fed and 793 bottle-fed children born to seropositive mothers. All subjects were enrolled and followed-up in the Italian Register for HIV Infection in Children; HIV sero-status was defined in all children. Multivariate analysis was performed using a logistic regression model. Independent variables included biological factors (duration of breast-feeding, gestational age, clinical condition of mother at delivery, mode of delivery, birth-weight and sex). Year of birth and age when HIV infection was diagnosed were also considered in the analysis attempting to control for possible selection biases.
Results: Breast-feeding increased the risk of HIV-1 transmission. The estimated adjusted odds ratio for 1 day of breast- versus bottle-feeding was 1.19 (95% confidence interval, 1.10-1.28). The infection odds ratio of breast- versus bottle-feeding increased with the natural logarithm of the duration of practice.
Conclusions: These results are the first to provide an appraisal of the additional risk of HIV-1 transmission associated with a seropositive mother breast-feeding her child. Biological significance of this route of transmission was supported by demonstration of a relationship between duration of breast-feeding and risk of HIV-1 transmission.