Natural history of postnatal rhesus cytomegalovirus shedding by dams and acquisition by infant rhesus monkeys.
BACKGROUND: Human infants frequently acquire human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) through breastfeeding, resulting in persistent high-level viral shedding in saliva and urine and infectivity to others, including pregnant women. Thus, vaccination to interrupt postnatal HCMV transmission is an attractive strategy to prevent HCMV spread and congenital infection. Rhesus CMV (RhCMV) in nonhuman primates is a valuable model for the study of immune strategies to prevent CMV transmission. Although rhesus monkeys typically acquire RhCMV before 1 year of age, the timing and mode of natural infant RhCMV transmission remain unknown. METHODS: We followed 5 RhCMV-seropositive dams and their infants from birth until weaning, approximately 6 months later. RhCMV DNA levels in plasma, breast milk, saliva, and urine were measured every 2 weeks by quantitative PCR. RhCMV-specific T cell responses in peripheral blood and breast milk were measured by interferon gamma ELISpot assays. Serum IgG antibody levels were measured by ELISA. RESULTS: Four of five postpartum RhCMV-seropositive mothers had intermittent, low-level RhCMV shedding in breast milk, whereas all had high-magnitude RhCMV shedding in saliva and urine. The kinetics of maternal blood RhCMV-specific T cell responses and viral shedding in urine and saliva did not strongly associate, though dams with consistently high systemic RhCMV-specific T cell responses tended to have undetectable RhCMV shedding in breast milk. All RhCMV-exposed infants had intermittent, low-level RhCMV shedding in saliva during the lactation period, with minimal systemic RhCMV-specific T cell responses. CONCLUSIONS: Despite exposure to RhCMV shedding in breast milk and other maternal fluids, postnatal mother-to-child RhCMV transmission appears to be less efficient than that of HCMV. A greater understanding of the determinants of RhCMV transmission and its usefulness as a model of HCMV mucosal acquisition may provide insight into strategies to prevent HCMV infections in humans.
Kaur, A; Itell, HL; Ehlinger, EP; Varner, V; Gantt, S; Permar, SR
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