Drug Addicts Hemophiliacs and Children

The prediction turned out to be correct. As early as mid-1981, doctors had noticed symptoms in intravenous drug users that in hindsight were consistent with GRID. By early 1982, at least twenty-three heterosexuals, mostly intravenous drug users, were counted among GRID victims.

Many scientists felt that the infections seen in intravenous drug users suggested that GRID could be spread through the blood as well as through sexual contact, and that it was more likely to have a viral cause. Since intravenous drug users often shared needles, they were exposed to the blood of other drug users. This means of disease transmission was well known. The blood contact spread diseases such as hepatitis B, which was caused by a virus.

The theory that GRID was spread through blood contact got further corroboration when a number of people with hemophilia began showing symptoms. Hemophiliacs, who have a blood disorder that prevents proper clotting following injury, often require transfusions and injections of the components their own blood lacks. In



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Teenager Ryan White and many other hemophiliacs contracted AIDS in the mid-1980s, confirming the theory that AIDS could spread through blood contact.

early 1982 in Miami, an elderly man with hemophilia was diagnosed with Pneumocystis. He was not an intravenous drug user, but because of the hemophilia, he received regular injections of a clotting agent. The clotting agent, isolated from the blood of non-hemophiliac blood donors, is called Factor VIII.

The man's doctor initially believed that Pneumocystis carinii microorganisms might have contaminated the patient's doses of Factor VIII. Bruce Evatt at the CDC, however, assured the physician that these bacteria were large enough that they would have been completely filtered out during the process of Factor VIII isolation. Only very small microbes, such as viruses, could pass through the filtering process.

The number of nonhomosexual GRID cases continued to rise. By mid-1982, two more hemophiliacs were confirmed to have GRID. Infected intravenous drug users were also becoming more common. Furthermore, there were reports of children of GRID-infected drug addicts showing GRID symptoms from birth. One account told of a seventeen-month-old baby who had oral yeast infections, staphylococcus aureus infections, and an infection of a bacterium called Mycobacterium avian-intracellular, which was usually only seen in birds. Another thirty-week-old infant was suffering from infections including PCP, cryptococcosis, and CMV—all hallmarks of GRID. Soon, doctors at the CDC were forced to conclude that GRID was not purely a homosexual disease. Furthermore, the fact that babies could be born with the disease made it clear that, although lifestyle was a risk factor, virtually anyone could contact GRID. As this fact became clear, scientists redoubled their efforts to find the cause of GRID.

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