A cluster of HIV-1 infection has been identified in Libya in 1999, involving 402 children admitted to "El-Fath" Children's Hospital in Benghazi (BCH) during 1998 and 19 of their mothers. Nosocomial transmission has been indicated as responsible for the spread of infection. Out of this group, 104 children and 19 adult women have been followed at the National Institute for Infectious Diseases L. Spallanzani in Rome during 1 year. At BCH, all children had received intravenous infusions but not blood or blood products. A single child receiving a blood transfusion in 1997 and the 17 infected mothers were never hospitalized in Benghazi. In addition, two nurses were diagnosed as HIV-1 infected. In 40 subjects out of this group HIV-1 gag, env, and pol fragments were amplified and sequenced. The phylogenetic analyses showed that a monophyletic recombinant HIV-1 form CRF02-AG was infecting all of the HIV-1-seropositive patients admitted at BCH with no close similarities to the other CRF02-AG reported to GenBank. A different strain was found in the child infected by blood transfusion. The data thus suggest a highly contagious nosocomial spread of HIV-1 infection and possibly transmission of the virus from child to mother during breastfeeding in connection with primary HIV-1 infection.
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