Vertical transmission of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) remains a major global health problem. We assessed the association of mannose binding lectin (MBL) deficiency and vertical transmission of HIV. Novel diagnostics would be a major breakthrough in this regard. MBL is a liver-derived protein and a key component of the innate immune system. MBL levels may be classified as normal, intermediate, or deficient in the plasma and can use MBL2 haplotypes as a proxy. These haplotypes comprise polymorphisms in the MBL2 gene and promoter region and are known to result in varying levels of MBL deficiency. MBL deficiency can be defined as presence of A/O and O/O genotypes in the mothers and their children. MBL deficiency leads to defective opsonization activities of the innate immune system and increased susceptibility to several infections, including HIV-1. We determined the prevalence of MBL deficiency, using MBL2 haplotypes among 622 HIV-positive Zimbabwean mothers and their children aged 9-18 months old, in relation to the HIV-1 vertical transmission risk. The median age of the mothers was 30 (26-34, interquartile range [IQR]) years, and the babies’ median age was 13 (11-15, IQR) months old at the time of enrollment. From the sample of 622 mothers who were HIV-1 infected, 574 babies were HIV negative and 48 were HIV-1-positive babies, giving a transmission rate of 7.7%. MBL2 normal structural allele A and variants B (codon 5 A>G), C (codon 57 A>G), and promoter region SNPs -550(H/L) and -221(X/Y) were detected. Prevalence of haplotype-predicted MBL deficiency was 34% among the mothers and 32% among the children. We found no association between maternal MBL2 deficiency and HIV-1 transmission to their children. We found no difference in the distribution of HIV-1 infected and uninfected children between the MBL2 genotypes of the mothers and those of the children. Taken together, the present study in a large sample of mother-infant pairs in Zimbabwe adds to the emerging literature and the hypothesis that MBL2 variation as predicted by haplotypes does not influence the vertical transmission risk for HIV. Research from other populations from the African continent is called for to test this hypothesis further.
HIV-1 Vertical Transmission in Zimbabwe in 622 Mother and Infant Pairs: Rethinking the Contribution of Mannose Binding Lectin Deficiency in Africa.