SIV Data Raise Concern on Oral-Sex Risk

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Science  07 Jun 1996:
Vol. 272, Issue 5267, pp. 1421-1422
DOI: 10.1126/science.272.5267.1421


The results of a monkey study, reported in this issue on page 1486, may lead to a reexamination of the risk of HIV infection from a practice that has seemed relatively safe: oral sex. The new study, headed by oncologist Ruth Ruprecht of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, found that six of seven monkeys became infected by SIV when the virus was placed gently on the backs of their tongues. Even more surprising: The minimum dose needed to infect monkeys with this strain of SIV was 6000 times lower than the minimum dose needed to infect them via the rectum. The amount of SIV needed to establish an infection was still relatively high and, as the paper underscores, it is highly unlikely that anyone could become infected by HIV from casual contact, such as kissing or sharing a fork. But Ruprecht says: “Given enough inoculum, the oral route can lead to infection.”

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