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Detection of HIV-1 DNA in needle/syringes, paraphernalia, and washes from shooting galleries in Miami: a preliminary laboratory report.

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  • 1Comprehensive Drug Research Center, Department of Psychiatry, University of Miami, Florida, USA.


Shared use of injection equipment (needle/syringes), registering, booting, and backloading are practices among injection drug users (IDUs) that increase the risk for transmission of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1). The sharing of injection paraphernalia (including cookers and cottons) and washwater for rinsing used needle/syringes and dissolving drugs could be potential sources for secondary transmission of HIV-1. Laboratory rinses were made from needle/syringes, cottons, and cookers obtained from shooting galleries, and washwaters were obtained from shooting galleries in Miami. Three rinses were analyzed and antibodies to HIV-1 proteins were detected by using Western blot and HIV-1 DNA was detected by using nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR) specific for the gag and envelope genes of HIV-1. Antibodies to HIV-1 proteins were detected in 12 (52%) of 23 rinses from visibly contaminated needle/syringes, in three (18%) of 17 rinses from cottons, in three (14%) of 21 rinses from cookers, and in one (6%) of 17 washwaters. No antibodies were detected in laboratory rinses from visibly clean needles. Using nested PCR followed by Southern blot confirmation of the amplified targets, HIV-1 gag gene DNA was detected in 16 (84%) of 19 and envelope gene DNA in 17 (85%) of 20 laboratory rinses from visibly contaminated needle/syringes. We detected gag and envelope gene DNA, respectively, in three (27%) and four (36%) of 11 cottons, in six (46%) and seven (54%) of 13 cookers, and in five (38%) of 13 and in 10 (67%) of 15 washwaters from shooting galleries. No HIV-1 DNA was detected in laboratory rinses from visibly clean needles. These results indicate that HIV-1 might be present in contaminated cottons, cookers, and washwaters as well as in contaminated needle/syringes at shooting galleries. Reduction of risks of exposure to HIV-1 among IDUs may require modification of behaviors that are ancillary to the act of injection, such as the use of common cookers, cottons, and washwater.

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