Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas have utilized an animal model to trace how the virus that causes AIDS in humans may enter and spread throughout the body following an oral exposure.
By innoculating monkeys with SIV, the simian version of HIV, scientists traced which tissues in the mouth and digestive tract were infected during the first week. Furthermore, they traced which organs and lymph nodes were first infected and uncovered likely routes of infection. The findings are published in todays issue of the journal AIDS. "This is the first study to assess which tissues had SIV nucleic acid at the earliest times following an oral infection," said Dr. Donald Sodora, senior author of the paper.
Oral transmission of HIV is problematic, especially in developing countries where bottle-feeding infants is not practical. Up to one third of newborns may become infected with the virus that causes AIDS as a result of breastfeeding from an infected mother. There is no evidence that saliva transmits the virus from one person to another. However, oral exposure to the virus through breast milk or semen (during sexual contact) may result in a higher number of infections than originally thought.
Katherine Morales | EurekAlert!
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