Background: The average risk of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection after percutaneous exposure to HIV-infected blood is 0.3 percent, but the factors that influence this risk are not well understood.
Methods: We conducted a case-control study of health care workers with occupational, percutaneous exposure to HIV-infected blood. The case patients were those who became seropositive after exposure to HIV, as reported by national surveillance systems in France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The controls were health care workers in a prospective surveillance project who were exposed to HIV but did not seroconvert.
Results: Logistic-regression analysis based on 33 case patients and 665 controls showed that significant risk factors for seroconversion were deep injury (odds ratio= 15; 95 percent confidence interval, 6.0 to 41), injury with a device that was visibly contaminated with the source patient's blood (odds ratio= 6.2; 95 percent confidence interval, 2.2 to 21), a procedure involving a needle placed in the source patient's artery or vein (odds ratio=4.3; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.7 to 12), and exposure to a source patient who died of the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome within two months afterward (odds ratio=5.6; 95 percent confidence interval, 2.0 to 16). The case patients were significantly less likely than the controls to have taken zidovudine after the exposure (odds ratio=0.19; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.06 to 0.52).
Conclusions: The risk of HIV infection after percutaneous exposure increases with a larger volume of blood and, probably, a higher titer of HIV in the source patient's blood. Postexposure prophylaxis with zidovudine appears to be protective.