Risk of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1) infection among laboratory workers

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Science  01 Jan 1988:
Vol. 239, Issue 4835, pp. 68-71
DOI: 10.1126/science.3336776


In a prospective cohort study of 265 laboratory and affiliated workers, one individual with no recognized risk factors for human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection was HIV-1 seropositive at the time of entry into the study. Molecular analyses of two HIV-1 isolates derived in two independent laboratories from a blood sample from this worker showed that the isolates were indistinguishable from a genotypic form of HIV-1 present in the H9/HTLV-IIIB cell line. Exposure to this strain of virus most probably occurred during work with concentrated virus or culture fluids from virus-producing cell lines under standard Biosafety Level 3 containment. Although no specific incident leading to this infection has been identified, undetected skin contact with virus culture supernatant might have occurred. This worker was the only one found to be positive among the subgroup of 99 workers who shared a work environment involving exposure to concentrated virus. The incidence rate of 0.48 per 100 person-years exposure indicates that prolonged laboratory exposure to concentrated virus is associated with some risk of HIV-1 infection, which is comparable to the risk for health care workers experiencing a needle stick exposure. While none of the ten workers with parenteral exposure to HIV-1 in this cohort became infected, a worker in another laboratory did seroconvert following an injury with a potentially contaminated needle. Strict Biosafety Level 3 containment and practices should be followed when working with concentrated HIV-1 preparations, and further refinement of the procedures may be necessary.

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