Objectives We evaluated the feasibility of intentional transmission of HIV by means of suicide bombing and rape as a terrorist tactic in asymmetric conflicts by evaluating the recognised optimum conditions for biological warfare. We also estimated the suitability of a fourth-generation rapid test for HIV detection in the blood of dead terrorists killed in the completion of their mission.
Methods The feasibility of deliberate transmission of HIV for terroristic ends was evaluated on the basis of published experience from passive biological warfare research. In addition, blood from four recently deceased HIV-positive patients and four HIV-negative control corpses, stored at 4°C in a mortuary, was analysed at 12, 24, 36 and 48 h postmortem by rapid serological testing.
Results The feasibility of HIV infection for terroristic purposes was established. The fourth-generation HIV rapid test we evaluated identified all HIV-positive samples and was negative for all HIV-negative samples.
Conclusions Rapid HIV testing from the remains of dead terrorists in the deployed military environment is possible. Samples should be acquired quickly, basic sample preparation is advisable and consequent decisions concerning postexposure prophylaxis should take into account the diagnostic gap in early infections.
- Received November 6, 2012.
- Accepted February 10, 2013.
- Published by the BMJ Publishing Group Limited. For permission to use (where not already granted under a licence) please go to http://group.bmj.com/group/rights-licensing/permissions