The Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) continues to perplex health care providers. As our knowledge has increased, so has the number of questions, especially those related to infection control and employee health. Since the last time AIDS was reviewed in this column, additional information has become available which elaborates on some of the infection control aspects of this disease.
The human T-cell lymphotropic retrovirus (HTLV-III) appears to be the cause of AIDS. Other names used for HTLV-III are lymphadenopathy-associated virus (LAV) and AIDS-associated retrovirus. So called co-factors may be necessary to initiate disease after an individual acquires HTLV-III infection. Agents such as cytomegalovirus, the Epstein-Barr virus and multiple exposures to HTLV-III have been suggested as possible cofactors. Only a relatively small percentage of individuals who acquire HTLV-III antibody eventually develop overt disease or “full-blown AIDS.” Studies to date have shown that after 1 to 5 years of follow-up, 4% to 19% of seropositives developed AIDS.
In addition, the spectrum of disease caused by HTLV-III appears to be broader than originally thought. An additional 25% of those with antibody may have developed AIDS-related diseases including neurological symptoms, fever, weight loss, diarrhea, oral candidiasis and lymphadenopathy during the follow-up period.