Cedars Tallied 21 Infant AIDS Cases (1987)

Times Staff Writer

A Cedars-Sinai Medical Center pediatrician acknowledged Friday that 21 newborn babies who received blood transfusions at the hospital are known to have been infected with the AIDS virus, including five who have died of the disease.

The acknowledgment by Dr. Thomas Mundy followed an inquiry from The Times, prompted by concerns that complete statistics had not been provided by the physician at a Cedars press conference Thursday.

The press conference was called by the hospital to discuss the preliminary results of a study conducted by Mundy into AIDS infections in newborns.

While discussing that investigation, Mundy did not mention the results of a second Cedars study.

"That wasn't what we were discussing (at the news conference)," Mundy explained in a telephone interview Friday.

Taken together, however, the two studies show a significantly higher number of AIDS virus cases than indicated at the press conference.

At the conference, Mundy said that 2% to 5% of newborns who received blood transfusions at the hospital between 1980 and 1985 may have been infected with the AIDS virus. He said he was aware of three infant deaths from transfusion-related AIDS but did not specify how many newborns had actually been infected.

The transfusions were given before routine screening of the blood supply for the AIDS virus began in the spring of 1985.

In fact, Mundy said, Cedars is aware of 21 cases of AIDS virus infection in newborns through blood transfusions between 1980 and 1985. The total includes 18 of 44 infants, or 41%, of those who received blood from high-risk donors considered likely to transmit the AIDS virus.

Five of these 18 children died of AIDS. Those infants were tested as part of a recently completed study, preliminary results of which were reported by Mundy at the International AIDS Conference in Washington in June.

The total also includes three of 150 newborns, or 2%, who received transfusions from other donors and who have been tested for AIDS antibodies as part of a separate research project.

Cedars is still attempting to locate an additional 550 babies, mostly premature infants, who received transfusions from these other donors over the five-year period. Their parents are being encouraged to consent to free, confidential AIDS antibody tests, as well as an evaluation of the children's immune systems and family counseling.

Asked in an interview why current results of both studies had not been provided at the press conference, Mundy said: "The questions were about our current study. . . . We were responding to a report about the study of the 700 newborns which had been said to be a secret study on the news the day before."

Mundy said the number of cases was "too small to draw overall conclusions about the actual risk of contracting transfusion AIDS through the Cedars-Sinai blood bank." The hospital transfuses blood collected at its own blood bank, as well as blood from the Red Cross.

Mundy added that Cedars has no comparable figures for the number of transfusion-acquired AIDS virus infections or AIDS cases in older children or adults.

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