Infection of oral mucosal cells by HIV-1


HIV-1 transmission through saliva represents minimal risk, if any at all. However, recent studies using the in situ polymerase chain reaction (PCR) have shown that desquamated oral epithelial cells in saliva have integrated HIV-1 provirus DNA in their nuclei. Additionally, a high prevalence of HIV-1 RNA (13/27, 48%) is detected in saliva, correlated with lowered CD4 counts (64% with CD4<200 per mm3 and 38% with CD4>200 per mm3). Results of in situ PCR and transmission electron microscopy on mucosal epithelial cells, obtained clinically by scraping, indicate that these cells contain HIV-1 provirus DNA and epithelial cell-associated viral particles consistent with HIV-1, raising the possibility of productive infection. Buccal oral biopsies on HIV-1 seropositive subjects were obtained and, using in situ PCR, HIV-1 provirus DNA was detected; the signal was present in discrete foci in the epithelial layer ranging from the basal border to more superficial cells. Also, HIV-1 was localized in cells of lymphocytic and Langerhans lineage. The mechanism of infection and production of HIV-1 by oral mucosal cells needs to be studied further.

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Nasar Qureshi, M., Barr, C.E. & Reidy, J. Infection of oral mucosal cells by HIV-1. Perspectives in Drug Discovery and Design 5, 51–60 (1996).

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  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Viral Particle
  • Epithelial Layer
  • Productive Infection
  • Superficial Cell