Worldwide the heterosexual route is the prevalent mode of transmission of HIV, increasing the demand for measures that block the sexual spread of HIV infection. Vaccines designed to prevent mucosal transmission of HIV should be considered a component of vaccine strategies against HIV (in addition to cytotoxic T cells required for clearance and to prevent viral dissemination) and include antibodies, which are capable of blocking HIV entry at mucosal epithelial barriers, and prevent initial infection of target cells in the mucosa. However, in the interim and in the absence of an effective vaccine, the development of microbicides, topical preparations that block the early steps of HIV infection and transmission, may represent a more viable alternative to condom use in many HIV infected regions of the world especially by empowering women. To date there has been some success with antiviral antibodies applied as a microbicide capable of preventing SIV infection in macaques  and reports of vaccines capable of preventing intravaginal and intrarectal inoculated SIV [2 , 3]. However, for such success in humans a much greater understanding of the mechanisms involved in the very early stages of mucosal transmission in HIV infection are required. These may lead to additional strategies to inactivate or inhibit viral uptake and replication before a potentially life threatening acute infection develops. Such measures will lead to the development of effective microbicides and vaccines that will diminish the global spread of HIV.
HIV-1, Dendritic cells, C-type Lectin Receptors, Mucosal Transmission, Microbicide
Centre for Virus Research,Westmead Millennium Institute, Westmead, NSW 2145, Australia.