Background: The objective was to assess the risk of HIV transmission from orogenital intercourse (OI).
Methods: Systematic review of the literature on HIV-1 infectiousness through OI conducted according to MOOSE guidelines for reviews of observational studies. The PubMed database and bibliographies of relevant articles were searched to July 2007.
Results: Of the titles, 56 214 were searched from which 10 potentially appropriate studies were identified; two additional studies were identified through bibliographies and one through discussion with experts. There were 10 included studies, providing estimates of transmission probabilities per-partner (n = 5), incidence per-partner (n = 3), per-study participant (n = 3, following initially seronegative individuals whose partners are of unknown serostatus) and per-act (n = 3). Only four of 10 studies reported non-zero estimates: two per-partner estimates (20%, 95% CI: 6-51, n = 10 and a model-based estimate, 1%, range 0.85-2.3%), one per-study participant estimate (0.37%, 95% CI: 0.10-1.34%) and one per-act estimate (0.04%, 95% CI: 0.01-0.17%). Upper bounds for the 95% CI for zero estimates tended to be relatively large due to the small study sample sizes: 9.0, 12.1 and 2.8% for per-partner; 4.7, 9.6 and 1.8 per 100 person-years for incidence per-partner; 4.4% per-study participant and 0.45 and 0.02% for per-act. Given the small number of studies, a meta-analysis was not considered appropriate.
Conclusions: There are currently insufficient data to estimate precisely the risk from OI exposure. The low risk of transmission evident from identified studies means that more and larger studies would be required to provide sufficient evidence to derive more precise estimates.