The microbiomes of HIV-exposed, uninfected infants are different from infants born to women who do not HIV, according to a study published online in Science Translational Medicine.1 

Led by researchers at The Saban Research Institute of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA), the data suggest that maternal HIV infection influences the microbiome of their HIV-uninfected infants.  The researchers enrolled 50 mother-and-infant pairs from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, evenly split between HIV-positive and HIV-negative mothers, and looked broadly at the microbiomes of sample sites from each pair.

“In contrast to the mostly consistent microbial communities identified in all of the mothers, the microbiomes of HIV-exposed, uninfected infants were strikingly different from infants born to HIV-negative women in the same community.” first author Jeffrey M. Bender, MD, of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles said in a press release about the study.2  He added that the bacterial composition of infant stool was the most altered on the basis of the mother’s HIV status.

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The researchers observed that the bacterial communities of mothers with and without HIV infection in the cohort were relatively similar. Therefore the dysbiosis was not completely explained by the maternal-to-infant transfer.  Instead, it appears that changes found in the content of the HIV-affected mothers’ milk may have had dramatic downstream effects on the establishment of the infants’ microbiome, according to the researchers.2 


1. Bender JM, Li F, Martelly S, et al.  Maternal HIV infection influences the microbiome of HIV-uninfected infants. Science Translational Medicine. 2016;DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aaf5103. 

2. Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.  Maternal HIV status may disrupt normal microbiome development in uninfected infants. Press release. 2016.