Doctors say it is possible that a 49-year-old heterosexual man was infected with the AIDS virus through cuts he received on his hands when he beat up gay men.
Dr. Paul Carson and Dr. Jonathan D. Goldsmith of the University of Nebraska Medical Center said the man was referred to their AIDS clinic after he was found to be infected with the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS, during a health screening for life insurance in October. The case is being reported in tomorrow's issue of the British medical journal Lancet.
The scientists said the patient, who was not identified, denied having had sex with another man or woman since he married 25 years ago. He said he had been impotent for about 10 years; his wife was not infected. He said he had never received blood but acknowledged having used intravenous drugs once with a sterile needle.
The man later recounted that he and co-workers had sought out and beaten gay men in the New York area, where he worked as a truck driver from 1982 to 1988, the scientists said.
"He told me he did this too many times to remember," Dr. Carson said, "in the neighborhood of several times a week during that period."
The patient said he often got small cuts on his hands and large amounts of victims' blood on himself during those beatings, the doctors reported. The AIDS virus is most often transmitted through sexual intercourse with an infected partner or through exchanges of blood.
"There is no way to prove this 100 percent, but it is a plausible possibility," Dr. Carson said. "Unless he is lying, this seems to be the most likely explanation."
Dr. Carson said the patient, who is suffering from AIDS-related complex, reacted "stoically" to the idea that he could have brought the disease on himself.
"He just grunted and shook his head," Dr. Carson said. "The reason we brought it up is to alert people to a possible route of infection, and to serve as a deterrent to this dreadful behavior."