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Investigators zero in on infected skin grafts

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  15 May 2016 12:00 AM GMT

GMCH HIV fiasco

By Our Staff Reporter

Guwahati, May 14: Doctors investigating the HIV fiasco at Gauhati Medical College & Hospital have not ruled out the possibility of the three-and-half year-old boy getting infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) as a consequence of skin grafting.

Thirteen surgeries were performed on the boy who was admitted at the GMCH from April 15 to October 3 last year.

"He was given seven units of blood during that period. We have examined six of the seven samples and they were negative for HIV," sources privy to the investigations said, adding one sample is yet to be tested.

With most blood samples testing negative for HIV, the investigators are now zeroing in on plastic surgeries performed on the boy who was admitted with 40 per cent burn injuries.

HIV infection can occur as a consequence of transplants of the liver, kidneys, pancreas, bone marrow and the heart, and also as a consequence of skin grafts.

All donors of organs, tissues, eggs and semen are tested for HIV, but this does not completely rule out the possibility of infection, because of the 'window period' before antibodies form. It is still common for organ donors to be screened only with an antibody test.

A nucleic acid test, often called 'T', has been developed to shorten the window period, a time between when a patient has been infected and when they show up as positive by antibody tests.

The T can detect HIV virus in blood within three days of infection, while the ELISA (Enzyme-linked Immunosorbent Assay) and a more modern CLIA (Enhanced Chemiiluminescence Assay) can detect HIV antibodies, which the body generates post-infection, only after the 18-day window period associated with HIV. But T is expensive and no hospital in Assam is equipped to carry it out.

Meanwhile, Head of the plastic surgery department Dr Seema Rekha Devi, who was under scanner for not reporting the detection of HIV in the boy to the hospital superintendent, has gone on leave. Due to her absence, investigators are uble to examine the records in her possession pertinent to the case.

The investigating team is expected to submit its prelimiry findings to the government on Monday, a source said.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Law Network has filed a writ petition in the Gauhati High Court on behalf of the victim's father, seeking adequate compensation and a thorough investigation into the incident.

"We have sought Rs 5 lakh as an interim compensation and Rs 25 lakh as permanent compensation. We have also prayed before the court that all medical expenses of the boy be borne by the government. Besides, we have also sought a proper inquiry to unearth lapses on part of the hospital staff," advocate Pabitra Hazarika told this newspaper.

The petition will be heard by the court on Monday.

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