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Test diagnoses AIDS in newborns.

Test diagnoses AIDS in newborns

Scientists have discovered they can use a sensitive genetic test to detect the AIDS virus, HIV, in newborn babies and that the test provides a reliable indication of which infants born to infected mothers will develop full-blown AIDS. If larger studies confirm these findings, early detection in children should enable physicians to begin earlier treatment, which researchers say is likely to be more effective in ameliorating AIDS symptoms. And by identifying which babies of HIV-positive mothers are infected, the test might spare uninfected children the toxic effects of AIDS drugs, says study coauthor Chin-Yih Ou of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.

Moreover, suggest Ou and his colleagues in the June 2i NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE, the genetic test might help scientists uncover clues to how babies acquire the virus from their mothers--information that could eventually lead to preventive therapies.

At present, physicians cannot be certain that an infant is infected with HIV until symptoms appear, usually at about 1 year of age, Ou says. Current tests cannot detect the virus in newborns, and antibody screening fails because of maternal antibodies, which can persist for up to 15 months after birth.

The researchers used a method known as the polymerase chain reaction--which involves amplyfying tiny amounts of DNA--on blood samples obtained during the first month of life from babies of HIV-infected mothers. They detected HIV DNA in five of seven infants who later developed full-blown AIDS and in one of eight who later displayed symptoms suggesting HIV infection. In contrast, they did not find the virus in blood from any of the none infants who remained healthy at 16 months of age.
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Author:Wickelgren, I.
Publication:Science News
Date:Jun 24, 1989
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