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Tuesday, 4 July, 2000, 00:47 GMT 01:47 UK
HIV infection 'stopped' by drug treatment
Blood transfusion
HIV infection as a result of a blood transfusion is rare
A teenager who received HIV-infected blood during an operation has been given a clean bill of health by doctors.

The 13-year-old girl was given contaminated blood during a surgical operation at a hospital in Denmark.

The blood had been donated by a man before he had been diagnosed with acute HIV infection. His blood was traced to the girl two days after she had received the transfusion.

While the girl did not show any traces of HIV infection, analysis of the donated-blood found it contained high levels of the virus.

The girl was placed on powerful anti-HIV drugs for several months. During that period, she showed no signs of developing HIV infection.

Doctors had planned to continue the treatment for nine months but side effects forced them to stop earlier.

But six months after the treatment stopped the girl had still not developed HIV and was given a clean bill of health.

A study into the case is published in the latest issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, a journal from the American College of Physicians.

Infection

The Danish researchers said they could not say for sure if HIV infection was prevented in this case because of the immediate drug treatment.

"We cannot determine whether the recipient's lack of infection was due to the eradication of the infection by the therapy or whether the donation of the HIV-infected blood would not have led to infection even without therapy," they said.

Previous studies of patients who received HIV-infected blood have shown an infection rate of almost 100% and it is generally held that every transfusion from an HIV-infected donor will lead to the recipient contracting the virus.

Cases where there has been no evidence of transmission have been dismissed because of flaws in tracing the original blood.

But the Danish researchers said stringent tests showed the blood had been traced correctly.

"We reviewed all of the documented steps in the procedure and ascertained that the recipient in our case report did in fact receive the red blood cells donated by the patient," they stated.

'Treatment is not foolproof'

A spokesman for the UK's National Aids Trust said immediate treatment was not guaranteed to fight off HIV infection.

He said: "It is not foolproof and it is certainly not a morning after treatment for someone who has come into contact with the virus.

"It is also not an easy option because it requires treatment over six to nine months."

He said similar cases would be extremely rare in the UK.

"We have one of the safest systems for screening blood in the world."

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