Integration of immunodeficiency virus in oocytes via intracytoplasmic injection: possible but extremely unlikely

Human oocytes can be infected with HIV via ICSI when high amounts of virus are injected, but the chances that an infection will occur in a clinical setting are less than 0.00002%.


Marjan M.C. Steenvoorden, Ph.D., Marion Cornelissen, Ph.D., Elisabeth van Leeuwen, M.D., Ph.D., Nancy M. Schuurman, B.Sc., Herman F. Egberink, B.Sc., Ben Berkhout, Ph.D., Fulco van der Veen, M.D., Ph.D., Sjoerd Repping, Ph.D.

Vol 98, Issue 1 , Pages 173-177



To determine if human oocytes can be infected with HIV-1 via intracytoplasmic injection and to determine the infection threshold.


Twenty-eight donated immature and unfertilized human oocytes from HIV-negative women were injected with 4 × 104 HIV-1 virions and 13 oocytes were used as uninjected controls. To determine the infection threshold, 543 cat oocytes were injected with 4 × 104, 4 × 102, or 40 copies of feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and 376 oocytes were used as controls.


Academic hospital.


Donated immature human oocytes and mature cat oocytes.


Injection with HIV-1 or FIV.

Main Outcome Measure(s):

Viral integration as measured by fluorescent in situ hybridization with HIV-1-specific probes or by nested FIV polymerase chain reaction.


We detected viral integration in three of 28 (11%) human oocytes injected with 4 × 104 copies of HIV-1. When injected with high dose FIV (4 × 104 copies) 16%–49% of cat oocytes showed viral integration. This decreased to 2%–7% and 0.6%–1.8% when an intermediate (4 × 102 copies) or low (40 copies) dose was injected, respectively.


Human and cat oocytes can be infected with HIV-1 and FIV respectively, when injected with high amounts of virus. The probability of viral integration is extremely low when small amounts of virus particles are injected. Taking into account the small volume injected during intracytoplasmic injection, the chances of viral integration are 0.00002%.

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