Hello. I work in a clinical HLA lab where we receive, very infrequently, HIV positive samples. Some samples are frozen and then thawed days later and 50 uL are plated onto a 96 well tray from which DNA is extracted. The blood samples are stored in tubes like eppendorf tubes, but with screw caps.
The last week of June, 2008, I set up this tray of 50 uL samples. A sample on this tray was HIV positive. I was definitely wearing latex gloves and a lab coat, but am not certain if I was wearing a face shield. Sometimes, when you unscrew the lid from a sample, there is a very thin layer of blood (like a bubble) at the opening of the tube, and you have to pop it with your pipette tip. I always completely point away from my body (and face) and at a distance of two feet, but I suppose it could pop and splatter but I may not see it.
My question is, if a mucous membrane on my face had been exposed to a bit of blood from my popping this bubble on the tube, could that establish an infection? Please keep in mind that I cannot recall ever having blood splatter on my face from one of these tubes, nor on any exposed skin ever, and if it had during this incident, it would have been nothing more than a tiny(practically invisible and unfelt) speck from that thin film of blood at the tube opening.
Also, I have MS, and I'm concerned that my immune-modifying therapy (Rebif) would somehow make me less likely to fight off even a tiny amount of this virus if it had somehow managed to get into my eye, nose, or mouth.
Well, my lab is an HLA lab, not an infectious disease one. We almost exclusively receive samples of blood cancer patients, their family members, and unrelated donors for them. I think the HLA B57 situation with some HIV drug is why this sample was sent to us. And all they ever really tell us is "to use universal precautions" for all samples, ya know, to be on the safe side.
And again, I really don't think I was exposed at all, I think I would have seen or felt blood hit my face/eye/mouth, and I very well could have been wearing that face shield.
But just for peace of mind, I'm curious why you're saying that there's absolutely zero risk for me. Is it because the amount of virus needed to establish an HIV infection could not possibly have been in the amount of blood that I potentially could have been exposed to?
To clarify, during this specific incident in late June '08, I cannot recall if I was wearing a face shield or not. That's the one universal precaution that I would be prone to skip, at least up until I found out about this HIV positive blood being on one of my trays. I've been 100% adherent since.
So assuming I was NOT wearing a face shield, and a tiny, invisible, unable-to-be-felt speck of blood from the bubble covering the opening of this eppendorf-like tube made it to a mucous membrane on my face (eye, nose, mouth), would it be able to cause an infection? That's the take-home question.
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