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From IEDs to AIDS? Detection of HIV in human corpses by rapid screening tests after suspected intentional transmission in terrorist attacks
  1. Hagen Frickmann1,2,
  2. B Wulff3,
  3. U Loderstædt4,
  4. R M Hagen1,
  5. D Sturm5 and
  6. S Polywka6
  1. 1Department of Tropical Medicine at the Bernhard Nocht Institute, German Armed Forces Hospital of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
  2. 2Institute for Medical Microbiology, Virology and Hygiene, University Hospital of Rostock, Rostock, Germany
  3. 3Institute for Forensic Medicine, University Medical Centre Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany
  4. 4Department of Clinical Chemistry, University Medical Center Goettingen, Goettingen, Germany
  5. 5Clinics for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Health Center Wetterau Limited, Friedberg, Germany
  6. 6Institute for Medical Microbiology, Virology and Hygiene, University Medical Centre Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany
  1. Correspondence to Maj Hagen Frickmann, Department of Tropical Medicine at the Bernhard Nocht Institute, German Armed Forces Hospital of Hamburg, Bernhard Nocht Street 74, D-20359 Hamburg, Germany; Frickmann{at}bni-hamburg.de

Abstract

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.

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  • Received November 6, 2012.
  • Accepted February 10, 2013.
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