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HIV-1 Target Cells in Foreskins of African Men With Varying Histories of Sexually Transmitted Infections

Betty A. Donoval, Alan L. Landay PhD, Stephen Moses MD, PhD, Kawango Agot PhD, J.O. Ndinya-Achola MBchB, Edith A. Nyagaya, Ian MacLean PhD, Robert C. Bailey PhD
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1309/JVHQVDJDYKM58EPH 386-391 First published online: 1 March 2006


Numerous epidemiologic studies have found significant associations between lack of circumcision and HIV-1 acquisition in men. To our knowledge, this is the first study of human foreskin tissue that examines biologic mechanisms that increase susceptibility of uncircumcised African men to HIV-1. Foreskin specimens from 20 men with and 19 men with no history of sexually transmitted infections were examined for HIV-1 target cells. Most Langerhans cells were found in the epithelium; most CD4+ T cells and macrophages were in the submucosa. There were no differences in HIV-1 target cells between men with and those without history of sexually transmitted infections. However, Langerhans cells and macrophages were more abundant in the group with a history of infection. The densities and positions of HIV-1 target cells in the foreskin tissue of these Kenyan men indicate that the inner mucosal surface of the human foreskin contains cells that make it highly susceptible to HIV infection.

Key Words:
  • HIV-1
  • Foreskin
  • Circumcision
  • Immunohistochemistry