New and compelling scientific evidence has emerged in support of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor accused of deliberately spreading HIV to 426 Libyan children in 1998.
The evidence redoubles the international pressure on Libyan president Colonel Muammar al- Gaddafi to ensure that the six are acquitted when the Libyan court issues its verdict on 19 December.
By examining viral extracts from some of the children, Oliver Pybus of the University of Oxford and his colleagues were able to work backwards to establish that specific mutations in 40 per cent of the HIV cases evolved before the nurses arrived at the Al-Fateh Hospital in Benghazi in March 1998. Likewise, 70 per cent of the children with hepatitis C, which can also be spread through dirty needles, contracted it before the arrival of the nurses (de Oliveira T et al. Molecular epidemiology: HIV-1 and HCV sequences from Libyan outbreak - Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature44836a). The analysis concludes that both viruses spread through poor hospital hygiene.
The big question now is whether the court accepts the evidence even though the trial ended on 4 November. "We'd like it to be heard or taken into account somehow," says Pybus.
More information: Original paper: de Oliveira T et al. Molecular epidemiology: HIV-1 and HCV sequences from Libyan outbreak
News date: 2006-12-20
Assessment of automated genotyping protocols as tools for surveillance of HIV-1 genetic diversity. Gifford R, de Oliveira T, Rambaut A, Myers RE, Gale CV, Dunn D, Shafer R, Vandamme AM, Kellam P, Pillay D; UK Collaborative Group on HIV Drug Resistance, AIDS (2006), 20(11):1521-9.