Scientists have found five people who were infected with the virus that causes AIDS by blood transfusions from one donor and then did not develop any evidence of illness 7 to 10 years later, suggesting that it was a non-virulent strain.
The donor also has remained a symptomless carrier of the virus, known as HIV, the scientists from Sydney, Australia, report today in The Lancet, an international medical journal.
It is the first report to suggest that non-virulent strains of HIV continue to be non-virulent after being transmitted to other people, the authors said. But it is not clear whether the donor or any recipients will eventually develop AIDS because the time for progression from infection to disease is so variable.
It is also the first report of blood or blood products from a single donor infecting a group of recipients and all parties remaining free of symptoms and having normal results from standard tests of immune function like the CD-4 count.
Neither the donor nor any recipient took AZT or any other drug against the virus.
Dr. James W. Curran, a top AIDS official at the Federal Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, said the unusually long time the recipients have shown no symptoms ran counter to the usual pattern among transfusion recipients, which in general, is shorter than among people who acquire the virus through sexual intercourse, he said.