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Can comparative testing tell/RO who gave a person the virus?
Dec 23, 2001

If one hiv+ person is accused of infecting 3 other people who are hiv+, can it medically and forenscly be proven or ruled out that the 3 did or did not get it from the one original hiv+ person? Is it possible to do a sort of virus family tree by using DNA or RNA or any other test to determain that "yes this strain of hiv from this guy is the exact same as what this woman has. She could have got it from someone else the guy infected and then that person could have infected the girl." If this is true I realize that. I guess the bottom line is; can hiv blood samples be used, simmler to the way fingerprints have been used, to determain if two different people have been infected by the same person. Is there such a thing as a virus "fingerprint". And if no, why not?

Response from Dr. Cohen

There may be some ways to do this - but the testing needed is very complex and done by very few labs in the world. The CDC in Atlanta has done this type of work in the past - but I have not heard them taking on the role of investigations such as this on any routine basis. If this is a concern to pursue - a call from a treating MD to an academic HIV virology lab may lead to the answer to this question since it can be done but is complex and still sometimes not definitive...

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