Mastitis and vertical transmission of HIV among breastfeeding women

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2 Scopus citations


Objectives To review the pathophysiology, epidemiology, diagnosis and treatment of mastitis and to discuss the hypothesis that mastitis and breast- milk HIV load are major risk factors for mother-to-child transmission of HIV among women who breastfeed. Methods Papers in the scientific literature on mastitis from the last 60 years were reviewed and summarized in this synthesis. Recent studies on mastitis, breast-milk HIV load and mother-to- child transmission of HIV were discussed with reference to current knowledge about mastitis. Results Mastitis is an inflammatory process in the breast which is characterized by an opening of paracellular pathways in the mammary alveoli and an abnormal increase in inflammatory cells and sodium in human milk. The presence of plasma-derived components in human milk, which could potentially include HIV-infected lymphocytes and free virions, may increase the risk of vertical transmission of HIV in breastfeeding women. Regular screening and prompt diagnosis of treatment of mastitis may be a potential means to reduce vertical transmission of HIV in populations where formula feeding is considered inappropriate and unsafe. Conclusions Mastitis and HIV load in human milk are risk factors for vertical transmission of HIV. Further studies are needed to characterize the epidemiology and microbiology of mastitis and its relationship to vertical transmission of HIV.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)370-375
Number of pages6
JournalPrenatal and Neonatal Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 29 1999


  • Breastfeeding
  • HIV
  • Mastitis
  • Transmission

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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