In a rare case, researchers have found that a newborn baby contracted human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) from his father after coming into contact with the fluid leaking from a lesion on his skin.
Diagnosis of HIV-1 infection in the four-year old child of an HIV-negative mother led to a forensic analysis to determine the source of the infection and try to date the transmission of the virus.
Based on comparative analysis of genetic, phylogenetic, and serologic data from the father and the son, the researchers from the University of Lisbon in Portugal and colleagues concluded that the virus was accidentally transmitted to the son during the first days of the child’s life.
Phylogenetics is the study of evolutionary relationships, while serology is the study or diagnostic examination of blood serum.
During this time, the father was being treated for infection with varicella-zooster virus (chicken pox) and syphilis when he developed large vesicles all over his body that profusely leaked fluids, researchers said.
The high virus production early in HIV infection would have made the fluids leaking from the father’s skin blisters highly infectious, they said.
These infectious fluids could have come in contact with the newborn child causing this atypical HIV transmission event, according to the study published in the journal AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses.
“Although this type of father-to-son HIV transmission event is rare, it is important that the general public realize that HIV is present in most bodily fluids and can be transmitted in atypical and unexpected ways,” said Thomas Hope, a professor at the Northwestern University in the US.
“In this case, the circumstances of fluids leaking from skin blisters with the high amount of HIV present in the first months of HIV infection led to the unfortunate infection of a newborn child,” said Hope, who was not involved in the study.
The child was born in 2009 to an HIV negative mother and was diagnosed with HIV-1 infection when he was four years old, in January 2013.
Samples were collected from the father and child at two time points about four years after the child’s birth.
While mother-to-child (MTC) HIV transmission still occurs in many parts of the world and has been investigated many times, few father-to-child transmissions have been reported, researchers said.
In one case, a 12-year-old daughter was found to be likely infected by her father, although no obvious transmission route was found, they said.