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Open blood vial, risk of transmission?
Apr 23, 2012

Hi Dr. Hightow-Weidman, I've incessantly perused the archives looking for an answer to my question but have yet to come across anyone in a similar situation. So here goes it: If a vial or test tube of blood was exposed to air (no cap or toppper) would the harshness of the elements (air, light, heat) render the samples non-infectious within seconds or minutes? I know all these variables make a definitive answer about how long it takes for the virus to die impossible but I am wondering if the fact that the blood is in a glass vial and not on any enivornmental surface makes any difference? I read a question posted to Nancy Breur regarding large spills of blood and the time it takes to lose infectiousness. She asserted that the virus in the pool of blood lose infectiousness "layer by layer". Can i extrapolate from her answer that blood in an open test tube or vial would also lose infectiousness in layers (blood closest to the top of vial losing infectiousness quicker than blood at the bottom of the vial?). I work in a lab setting and suffer from dermatitis of the hands and wrists. The dermatitis on my hands sometimes leads to open cuts on my knuckles and fingers, however, my wrists are just extrememly dry (no cuts). I am worried that droplets of blood could have gotten on my extrememly dry wrists (despite the gloves, they dont cover my entire wrist). I guess one could say the skin on my wrists is chapped (which I have read of the CDC website is a form of non-intact skin). If blood that had been sitting in a vial or test tube for at least a few minutes were to get on my extremely dry/chapped wrists, would this been a feasible mode of HIV/ Hepatitis transmission?

I no longer work at this lab, its been 10 weeks since my last day. I was tested for HIV at 9 weeks, negative. I plan to get tested again in 3 weeks. However, I recently read that Hepatitis, (which is much easier to contract in a lab setting) if contracted at the same time as HIV (if the blood sample was of a person coninfected with HIV/Hep C), can skew the results of the HIV tests, lengthening the window period. Is the case for everyone or just a rare occurence (1997 report)?

thank you!

Response from Dr. Hightow-Weidman

Hello there- While it is impossible to say exactly how long HIV would take to die in the setting of a vial of blood, it is very unlikely (impossible really) to have a drop of blood infect you through chapped skin on your wrists. At 9 weeks your test is also likely very accurate. While there is certainly no harm in restesting in a few weeks I would feel confident that you are indeed negative. I do not think that you were co-infected with Hepatitis C via the situation you described. Take care,

LHW



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