October 24, 2007

Medical interns at highest risk to accidental HIV infection, finds study

At least 100 medical interns and resident doctors at the Sassoon government hospital had to pop anti-HIV pills for 28 days after they suffered needle stick injuries while working in the hospital.
Even as healthcare workers are known to get accidentally exposed, mainly through needle stick injuries, to blood from patients infected with HIV, the study at SGH, one of the first in the country, found that medical interns were at the highest risk.

The joint study sponsored by Johns Hopkins University was conducted over a period of three years and the findings were presented by Dr Amita Gupta at the Johns Hopkins University at the 46th annual conference of Infectious Diseases Society of America at San Diego, in October this year.

Principal investigator of the project Dr A L Kakrani, Head of the Department of Medicine at SGH and B J Medical College, said that more than 700 such needle stick injuries were recorded during the period. The group that was exposed most to the needle stick injuries was of medical interns.

At least 100 persons suffered needle stick injuries and half of them were medical interns, followed by resident doctors. While the risk of transmission of HIV from patient to doctor via needle stick injuries is .3 per cent, according to Kakrani, there are around 70-80 cases worldwide where doctors have turned HIV positive.

Needle stick injuries are wounds caused by needles that accidentally puncture the skin. If not disposed of properly, needles, concealed in linen or garbage, can injure other workers unexpectedly, says Kakrani.

Doctors with needle stick injury were given drugs for 28 days. Kakrani explained that the virus remains localised in the area of injury for a maximum of three days.

Drugs given within three hours of the needle injury is effective and kills the virus before it multiplies. A combination of two drugs —lamivudine and stavudine— were given to most doctors and a three-drug combination of lamivudine, stavudine and indinavir were given to some of the doctors. None of the doctors tested positive for HIV.

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