: Maternal and cord samples from HIV-seropositive women and their infants in Zimbabwe, where subtype C is the predominant strain of HIV, were analyzed to determine the frequency of detection of HIV RNA and DNA. HIV RNA was detected in 90% of maternal and in 38% of cord plasma at levels at least 25% of maternal plasma. Heteroduplex mobility assays and sequencing of virus envelope (C2-V5) demonstrated closely related, but unique, subtype C viruses in maternal and cord RNA, and a significantly greater frequency of cord viremia among women with homogenous, compared with heterogeneous viral envelope RNA. Quantification of RNA, measures of envelope viral diversity, and phylogenetic analysis of maternal and cord plasma RNA provide evidence for the frequent exposure and potential transmission of HIV from mother to infant before birth.
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