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Inactivation of cell associated-HIV-1 in breast milk by treatment with the alkyl sulfate microbicide sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS)


Breast milk is recognized as a predominant mode of HIV-1 infection in infants. Cell-associated HIV-1 may be the main source of virus transmission during early phases of breast-feeding. We have previously observed that HIV-1-infected cells spontaneously producing virus persist in breast-milk from women under antiretroviral therapy. Treatment of expressed milk with a microbicide such as Sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) is proposed as a simple and safe option to inactivate both cell free and cell associated HIV-1 when formula feeding is not practicable. However, the effect of SDS on spontaneously HIV-1-producing CD4+T cells in breast milk has not been fully explored.

Materials and methods

In this report human milk was spiked by HIV-1-infected cells and treated with increasing exposure time and SDS concentration. CD4+T cell apoptosis and death, cell-associated HIV-1 RNA production, and spontaneous HIV-1-Ag cell secretion were quantified after SDS treatment.


Cell death increases in presence of SDS in a concentration- and time-dependent manner, 50% of T lymphocytes death after 2 minutes with 0.14% SDS and 90% after 10 minutes with 0.1% SDS (Fig. 1A). Undetectable HIV-1 RNA cell production was achieved following exposure with a minimum concentration of 0.1% SDS during 2 minutes, IC50 = 0.03% (Fig. 1B). The inhibition of HIV-1 Ag secretion was explored at a single cell level by ELISpot assay. Using this method inactivation was 100% for SDS concentrations ≥0.25% within 2 min (Fig. 1C).

Figure 1
figure 1

Effect of SDS exposure on T cell death (A), cell-associated HIV-1 RNA production (B), and sponataeous HIV-1-Ag cell secretion (C).


By comparison with results previously reported using an infectivity model based on β-galactosidase MAGI cells1, we observed that a two fold higher SDS concentration was required to complete inactivation of HIV-1-Ag-secreting cells. This concentration remains in the reported safe limits for ingestion of SDS by children (1 g/kg/day). Regarding the possible occurrence of transmission to the infant after controlling cell-free virus in breast milk from women on antiretroviral therapy, SDS treatment of expressed breast milk may be an interesting strategy to optimized the prevention of HIV-1 pediatric transmission.


  1. Urdaneta S, Wigdahl B, Neely EB, Berlin CM, Schengrund CL, Lin HM, Howett MK: Inactivation of HIV-1 in breast milk by treatment with the alkyl sulfate microbicide sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS). Retrovirology. 2005, 2: 28-10.1186/1742-4690-2-28.

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Open Access This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Tuaillon, E., Mutasa, K., Rubbo, PA. et al. Inactivation of cell associated-HIV-1 in breast milk by treatment with the alkyl sulfate microbicide sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS). Retrovirology 6 (Suppl 2), P85 (2009).

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