All newborn babies in the US are likely to be tested for HIV even though the test itself is not accurate, researchers have discovered.

Congress is expected to pass a law that sets targets for the cutting of HIV infection if those targets are not met, doctors will be required to test virtually all newborns for HIV.

This is a compromise measure agreed with the Republicans who wanted mandatory testing on all newborns.

Opponents have argued that it violates mothers’ privacy and, on a more pragmatic level, point out that the test cannot predict whether the child is infected, as it can measure only the mothers’ antibodies in the child. About 20 per cent of children who test positively go on to develop the infection.

A study team from Stanford University in California has found that the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test, most often used on newborns and infants, is not definitive. Results need to be studied along with follow up examinations (JAMA, May 1, 1996).

Researchers from the National Institutes for Health in Bethesda, USA, have discovered a co-factor, the protein fusin, that allows HIV-1 to infect cells (The Lancet, May 18, 1996).

See WDDTY 5.4 and 1.7 for our special reports on HIV infection.

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Written by What Doctors Don't Tell You

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