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Lancet. 1984 Dec 15;2(8416):1376-7.

Needlestick transmission of HTLV-III from a patient infected in Africa.

[No authors listed]



This article reports a case of needlestick transmission of human T-lymphotropic virus type III (HTLV-III) infection to a health care worker in the UK from a patient who was presumably infected while in Africa. The patient, a white woman who had lived in central southern Africa, presented at the hospital with general malaise, dry cough, and fever. Lung biopsy revealed Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia infection, and the patient was seropositive for HTLV-III infection with a titer of 260. The patient reported that she had been unwell for 2-3 years. She had none of the accepted risk factors for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), and neither she nor her husband had visited the US, the Caribbean, or Zaire. Serum from the husband was positive for HTLV-III antibodies at a titer of 450. Despite intensive management and treatment with pentamidine, the patient died. During management of this case, a nursing staff member sustained a needlestick injury to the finger while resheathing a hypodermic needle. A small amount of blood was probably injected. 13 days later, the health care worker developed a severe flu-like illness with sore throat, headache, myalgia, and facial neuralgia. A macular rash and generalized lymphadenopathy were also noted. Serum drawn 27 days after the incident was negative for anti-HTLV-III infection, but titers on days 49 and 57 were 12 and 24, respectively. This contrasts with experience in the US, where needlestick injuries in health care workers have not resulted in either disease or transmission. It is assumed that the patient acquired AIDS in Africa, and that the infection was transmitted heterosexually. This case raises the possibility of differences in infectivity and other characteristics between HTLV-III viruses of US and African origin.

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