Maternal-fetal transmission of human immunodeficiency virus: A review of possible routes and cellular mechanisms of infection

Gordon C Douglas, Barry F. King

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


The prevalence of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections among children is increasing in a manner that closely follows the spread of the disease among women. Despite the fact that in utero transmission via the placenta is thought to play a major role in the spread of HIV to the pediatric population, little is known about the timing, route(s), and cellular mechanisms by which maternal-fetal transmission occurs. This review attempts to use a developmental and cellular approach to assess the available clinical and laboratory data pertaining to maternal-fetal HIV transmission. While much of this review focuses on the role of the placenta, particularly the placental trophoblast, on the transmission of HIV, potential routes of infection during early development are also discussed. Clinical studies indicate that the placental trophoblast can be infected with HIV but have shed no light on how the virus gains entry to this tissue. While some laboratory studies confirm that trophoblast cells and placental macrophages can be infected with HIV in vitro, many studies are difficult to interpret because of inadequate characterization of the placental cells used. The role of CD4 in the infection of trophoblast remains controversial and clearly warrants a systematic examination. It is also apparent that viral tropism has not received enough attention and more studies using different strains of HIV are required. Thus, several basic questions remain to be answered before strategies to prevent maternal-fetal transmission of HIV can be developed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)678-691
Number of pages14
JournalClinical Infectious Diseases
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology


Dive into the research topics of 'Maternal-fetal transmission of human immunodeficiency virus: A review of possible routes and cellular mechanisms of infection'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this