The variants of an expectant mother’s HIV that transmit to her newborn during delivery may tend to be those that evade her antibodies against the virus.

Publishing their findings in PLOS Pathogens, researchers analyzed the variants of HIV in blood samples drawn from 16 mothers and their newborns who contracted the virus from them during delivery. The samples were from the Women and Infants Transmission Study, which was conducted during the early 1990s, before the introduction of antiretroviral (ARV) treatment and its use to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus.

After conducting genetic sequencing of the viral variants seen in each mother-infant pair, the study authors compared the transmitted and non-transmitted variants’ responses to antibodies from the mothers’ blood.

Most of the HIV variants that transmitted to the infants were more resistant to their mothers’ antibodies than the non-transmitted variants. However, when exposed to what are known as broadly neutralizing antibodies, which some people with HIV develop after being infected for some time, the transmitted viral variants were neutralized.

These study findings may help researchers develop a vaccine that could be administered at delivery to help prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

To read a press release about the study, click here.

To read the study, click here.