Low concentrations of HIV-1 DNA at birth delays diagnosis, complicating identification of infants for antiretroviral therapy to potentially prevent the establishment of viral reservoirs.
It has been suggested that a positive diagnostic test for human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) during the first 48 h of life is indicative of intrauterine transmission, whereas negative tests during the first week with positive tests later indicate intrapartum transmission. On the basis of data from all 140 infected infants in the Women and Infants Transmission Study (WITS), the probability was estimated that an HIV-1 culture would be positive for the first time at each day of life if cultures were performed daily. The estimated probabilities (+/-SE) by days 0, 2, 4, 7, 9, 16, and 30 of life are 27.4% (+/-6.4%), 27.4% (+/-13.0%), 45.3% (+/-20.5%), 45.3% (+/-22.5%), 65.3% (+/-20.0%), 88.4% (+/-7.8%), and 89.3% (+/-7.0%), respectively. The initial 27% probability is consistent with the hypothesis that transmission usually occurs during the intrapartum period. However, the distribution of age at first positive culture does not separate clearly into two distinct intervals. More definitive methods for determining the timing of transmission are needed.