New scientific evidence in Libya HIV death penalty case

December 7, 2006
New scientific evidence in Libya HIV death penalty case
Five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor stand accused of infecting children with HIV and face death by firing squad. Credit: L Larbi/Reuters

New molecular evidence from Oxford’s Zoology Department sheds significant doubt on charges against six medical workers who are facing execution in Libya.

The medical workers are charged with deliberately contaminating more than 400 children with HIV in 1998. However, new evidence published online in Nature from the Evolutionary Biology Group at Oxford, in collaboration with several European universities, shows that the subtype of HIV involved began infecting patients well before the medical workers arrived in Libya.

Researchers used the genetic sequences of HIV and Hepatitis C viruses that were isolated from the patients to reconstruct the transmission history of the strains involved and work out when the outbreaks began. By analysing mutations that accumulate over time, they were able to work out the timescale of the outbreaks and when they started. A body of scientific evidence already indicates that the outbreak was caused by poor hospital hygiene and not by deliberate transmission. These results provide the first direct molecular evidence.

For ten years the Evolutionary Biology Group has been developing and honing state-of-the-art methods for reconstructing the epidemic and evolutionary history of viruses from genetic data, and have researched both HIV and the Hepatitis C Virus. Authors Dr Tulio de Oliveira,Dr Oliver Pybus and Dr Andrew Rambautare world experts on this type of analysis. Together they worked around the clock to analyse the genomes of the viruses isolated from blood samples collected by a network of European clinical research centres that are involved in treating the infected children.

Dr Oliver Pybus said: ‘We've demonstrated that the HIV and Hepatitis C Virus strains involved in the Al Fateh Hospital outbreaks were present and being transmitted locally for some time before the arrival of the Bulgarian medical staff.’

The trial of the six workers, which has been taking place in Tripoli, ended on 4 November and a verdict is expected on 19 December.

Last month 114 Nobel Laureates wrote an open letter to Colonel Gaddafi urging the appropriate authorities to hear independent science-based evidence, and reaffirming the need for a fair trial. The new research represents a thorough and peer-reviewed scientific investigation of the new genetic and molecular data available from the outbreaks.

Lead author Dr Tulio de Oliveira said: ‘All the lines of scientific evidence point in the same direction: towards a longstanding infection control problem at the hospital, dating back to the mid 1990s or earlier.’

Source: University of Oxford

Explore further: Scaling back Obamacare will make the opioid crisis worse

Related Stories

Scaling back Obamacare will make the opioid crisis worse

February 16, 2018
There's been much talk in the U.S. about fixing the opioid crisis.

Study finds opportunity to increase opioid dependence treatment in Ontario jails

February 15, 2018
A study from McMaster University suggests more can be done to improve access to and delivery of opioid dependence treatment in adult correctional facilities in Ontario.

NIH begins large HIV treatment study in pregnant women

January 24, 2018
The National Institutes of Health has launched a large international study to compare the safety and efficacy of three antiretroviral treatment regimens for pregnant women living with HIV and the safety of these regimens ...

Why treating addiction with medication should be carefully considered

February 6, 2018
When a patient has diabetes, doctors typically prescribe insulin, along with diet and exercise. When a patient has high blood pressure, we prescribe medication, and we also reinforce the importance of healthy eating, exercise, ...

Modern medicine infected by the virus of mistrust

January 26, 2018
A rising tide of suspicion amplified by social networks has eroded public trust in modern medicine, leaving scientists and health officials scrambling for ways to shore up its credibility, experts say.

Fewer Americans are getting herpes

February 7, 2018
(HealthDay)— Herpes infection rates are dropping among young Americans, and safer sex practices may be one reason why.

Recommended for you

Best of Last Year—The top Medical Xpress articles of 2017

December 20, 2017
It was a good year for medical research as a team at the German center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Magdeburg, found that dancing can reverse the signs of aging in the brain. Any exercise helps, the team found, but dancing ...

Pickled in 'cognac', Chopin's heart gives up its secrets

November 26, 2017
The heart of Frederic Chopin, among the world's most cherished musical virtuosos, may finally have given up the cause of his untimely death.

Sugar industry withheld evidence of sucrose's health effects nearly 50 years ago

November 21, 2017
A U.S. sugar industry trade group appears to have pulled the plug on a study that was producing animal evidence linking sucrose to disease nearly 50 years ago, researchers argue in a paper publishing on November 21 in the ...

Female researchers pay more attention to sex and gender in medicine

November 7, 2017
When women participate in a medical research paper, that research is more likely to take into account the differences between the way men and women react to diseases and treatments, according to a new study by Stanford researchers.

Drug therapy from lethal bacteria could reduce kidney transplant rejection

August 3, 2017
An experimental treatment derived from a potentially deadly microorganism may provide lifesaving help for kidney transplant patients, according to an international study led by investigators at Cedars-Sinai.

Exploring the potential of human echolocation

June 25, 2017
People who are visually impaired will often use a cane to feel out their surroundings. With training and practice, people can learn to use the pitch, loudness and timbre of echoes from the cane or other sounds to navigate ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.