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Langerhans cells

May 6, 2013

Hi Dr Wohl

I've a bit of a technical question. I read that langerhans cells are involved in the sexual transmission of HIV. Now since these cells are numerous within the skin of your body does this mean that infected blood in contact with skin can lead to infection. If say you get infected blood on a healing graze on your skin does that result in the same odds of transmission as vaginal sex? I always read that the virus needs access to your bloodstream but, does it ? Or just access to langerhans cells? Thanks

Response from Dr. Wohl

The skin has a wonderful natural barrier to infections, a hard layer of dead cells. This keeps the bad guys out. Deeper down there are Langerhans cells but their role in HIV is somewhat murky with one study actually finding that these cells block infection.

Regardless, exposure of virus to basically intact skin does not lead to infection. (Little scrapes, microscopic starches or pin points don't matter).


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