Speedier AIDS test for infants backed by study

February 04, 1993|By Los Angeles Daily News

LOS ANGELES -- A simple laboratory test may be able to detect within days -- rather than months -- which babies are infected with the AIDS virus, a University of California, Los Angeles, study has found.

AIDS is passed to 20 to 30 percent of the babies born to HIV-infected women, but determining which infants have the virus has been difficult and time consuming.

Since AIDS babies benefit from early treatment, many infants born to infected mothers have been needlessly given powerful drugs on the chance that they would ultimately test positive for the virus.

"The most important thing for anybody is knowing whether a child is infected or not," said Dr. Steven A. Miles, assistant professor of hematology and oncology at UCLA and principal author of the study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"Knowing the child is infected can prompt a physician to initiate therapy as soon as possible. And knowing the child isn't infected can put the mother's mind at ease," he said.

If the new test withstands the rigor of further research, it could identify most infected babies within 24 hours and provide virtually conclusive proof within three weeks.

"It's a simple test, it doesn't cost much, and it's quick," said Dr. Yvonne Bryson, a pediatric AIDS specialist at UCLA and a co-author of the study.

"Unlike the sophisticated test we've been using, this could be adapted to many labs not only here, but in developing countries," she said.

Early detection and the intervention with traditional anti-AIDS drugs such as AZT, and drugs that help to prevent the development of pneumonia, can delay the onset of AIDS in children, Dr. Bryson said.

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