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Spreading HIV through manicures: Facts to know about the risk

Scientists were baffled when the 22-year-old female with no history of transmission risk factors was diagnosed with advanced HIV disease. Before you drop your cuticle sticks and nail clippers, let’s take a closer look at the facts about the woman who may have contracted HIV from a manicure.

1. She denied having vaginal, anal or oral sexual intercourse, a blood transfusion, surgery, piercing and tattooing. She had a boyfriend of two years, who tested negative, and said she did not have sex with him. A gynecological examination was “compatible with the patient’s statements,” the report says.

2. They eliminated other risk factors and tested her mother, who was negative, and confirmed that her mother was biologically hers.

3. Upon further investigation, the patient reported sharing manicure utensils with an older cousin about 10 years ago. Her cousin was found later to be infected with HIV and was not virally suppressed at the time of the manicure.

4. Researchers conducted a phylogenetic analysis of the HIV sequences of both patients. That evaluation showed that sequences were similar and had an ancestor date of about 11 years ago, which was around the time the women engaged in the manicure.

5. The researchers believe the manicure could have been a possible transmission method. “Although it is very difficult to determine the course of events occurring a decade ago and to guarantee that the use of the cosmetic paraphernalia was actually the mode of transmission, the HIV envelope and polymerase regions from both women are strongly related by phylogenetic parameters, and no alternative mode of transmission was identified,” the report states.

6. Researchers say this case raises the possibility that manicure instruments could be a transmission method — as can needle use for drugs and acupuncture as well as tattoos (those are already listed as common methods of transmission).

7. The article An HIV-1 Transmission Case Possibly Associated with Manicure Care states, “This transmission of HIV by shared manicure equipment is a very rare event that should serve not to make people fear HIV or contact with HIV-infected people,” said the journal’s editor, Brian Foley, Ph.D.

“It should make people aware that sharing any utensils with possible blood-blood contact, such as needles used for drugs, tattoos, or acupuncture can result in transmission of viruses such as hepatitis C (HCV) and HIV,” Foley said. “In addition, there are other common viruses and bacteria that can also be spread by sharing equipment without proper disinfection between users.”

It never hurts to make sure your manicure tools are properly disinfected. That can help prevent the spread of all kinds of germs and viruses.

The article was published by Elaine Monteiro Matsuda and coauthors from Santo André AIDS Program, Adolfo Lutz Institute and University of São Paulo, Brazil, in the journal AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses.

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