Use of pooled residual laboratory sera to assess human immunodeficiency virus prevalence among patients in Italy

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An anonymous unlinked seroprevalence study of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection was performed by testing pools of ten sera remaining from specimens submitted consecutively to clinical pathology laboratories at 18 Italian public hospitals during four consecutive days in April 1991. Sera from positive pools were retested individually by three different enzyme immunoassays (EIAs) and considered positive if reactive by all three assays. Only the sera with discordant EIA results were retested by Western blot. Of a total of 22,590 sera, 278 were HIV positive (1.2 %). The highest rates were seen in hospitals located in metropolitan areas (1.5 %), in infectious disease departments (28 %) and in drug addiction treatment units (28 %); among men aged 21–30 (4.6 %) and 31–40 years (4 %); and among women aged 21–30 years (1.6 %). The distribution of seropositive patients by gender and age group suggests an increasing role of heterosexual transmission of the infection. The presence of anti-HIV antibodies in sera from patients of both sexes, in all age groups, and from all clinical settings reinforces the need for health care workers to adhere to universal precautions issued to prevent occupational bloodborne infections.

G. De Carli, G. Nurra (U.O. AIDS RM-10, Rome); F. Costa (Croce Rossa Italiana, Rome); M. Cerbo (Ministero della Sanita', Rome); S. Tamarin (Aosta); E. Barberis (Reg. Margherita, Torino); F. Oliveri (Martini, Torino); S. Gallo (SS. Annunziata, Savigliano-Cuneo); G. Banfi (San Raffaele, Milano); A. Maraschini (Maggiore, Milano); R. Vaiani (Treviglio-Bergamo); A. Del Genovese (Careggi, Firenze); F. Curcio (San Camillo, Rome); M. Mehraban (San Giovanni, Rome); F. Piersanti (CTO, Rome); M. Brandani (L'Aquila); T. Laurelli (Isernia); M. Bocchetti (Cardarelli, Napoli); A.M. Mazzella (Ascalesi, Napoli); D. D'Aprile (Noci-Bari); L. Sasso (Policoro-Matera); A. Azzena (SS. Annunziata, Sassari).