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AIDS and hemophilia: still a risk?

AIDS and hemophilia: Still a risk?

With the advent last year of heat treatment of vital blood factors, AIDS from such products was supposed to cease being a risk to hemophiliacs. But a report in the March 15 LANCET describes a hemophiliac whose blood showed he had been exposed to the AIDs virus after he received heat-treated factor VIII. The connection, says coauthor Gilbert C. White II of the University of North Carolina (UNC) in Chapel Hill, warrants further investigation but doesn't yet mean factor VIII is hazardous. And Peter Levine of Memorial Hospital in Worcester, Mass., a medical co-director of the National Hemophilia Foundation, says the possibility that the hemophiliac was exposed to AIDS through intravenous drug use cannot be ruled out.

The man, who received heat-treated factor VIII following an operation, was a mild hemophiliac who had not received blood products ince 1975. Upon quetioning by physicians, he admitted to having used intravenous drugs prior to 1978, but said he no longer used them and was in no other AIDS risk group. His blood showed no evidence of AIDS antibodies before the operation, but a blood sample taken five weeks after the operation came up positive.

White and his UNC and Duke University co-workers examined several possibilities for the finding: The heat-treated factor VIII could have included live virus; inactivated virus could have caused an immune response; the factor VIII preparation could have contained AIDS antibodies; or the patient could have used intravenous drugs recently.

"We think it may well have been live virus," says White, "but we're not sure." While donor-blood screening -- which was not available when the man received the factor VIII -- combined with heat treatment is likely to handle the problem, the safety of such blood products still needs to be studied, says White.

According to Levine, an international study of hemophiliacs who have received only heat-treated blood products has found no antibody-positive patients among several hundred hemophiliacs checked so far.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Apr 12, 1986
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