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Researchers Unable To Document Existence Of Transient HIV Infection In Infants

Research published this week in the journal Science failed to verify even one case of transient infection among 42 cases where infants showed evidence of HIV-1 infection contracted from their mothers, but somehow became free of the virus that causes AIDS. The researchers concluded that laboratory errors created false readings when the specimens were initially tested.

"The study of transient HIV-1 infection draws attention because of clues it might give to development of a vaccine," said principal investigator Dr. Lisa M. Frenkel, associate professor of pediatrics and laboratory medicine at the University of Washington and Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle. "If individuals can be identified who have transient HIV-1 infection, a study of their immune responses could give clues as to what type of immune response could protect against or eliminate the infection."

To study cases of possible transient HIV-1 infection, Frenkel and colleagues looked to exposed infants, because, in contrast to adults, the time of exposure and the source of the virus are known: from an HIV-positive mother during the birth process. This knowledge allowed blood samples taken close to the time of exposure to be studied. When virus was found, results could be verified with genetic tests.

Frenkel explains the genesis for the current research: A few years ago, she and colleagues were studying the resistance of HIV to the AIDS drug, AZT. In their research, they encountered the case of a mother who had had two positive cultures for HIV, and her baby, who had tested positive three times. During later testing, HIV could not be found in their blood specimens. "It looked as if we had a case where both the mother and infant were transiently infected," said Frenkel.

To evaluate this case, the researchers re-analyzed the test results of these two and other reported cases. In addition to the mother and child, they found another 4
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Contact: Laurie McHale
lmchale@u.washington.edu
(206) 543-3620
University of Washington
14-May-1998


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