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Developments in Brief : AIDS Virus' Effect Seen in Babies' Faces

July 06, 1986|--Compiled from Times staff and wire service reports

Babies born to women with the AIDS virus share a set of subtle but distinct facial features, and that may mean the virus affects more than just the immune system, researchers say.

The newly defined syndrome--called HTLV-3 embryopathy--is not so much a disfigurement as a collection of facial similarities, such as with Down's syndrome children, said Dr. Robert Marion of Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Marion and his colleagues, writing in the July issue of the American Journal of Diseases of Children, said the facial syndrome consists of a smaller head circumference, a prominent box-like forehead, slightly slanted eyes set far apart, a short, broad and flat nose, and large, loosely shaped lips.

Although the children in the study were all born to mothers who were intravenous drug abusers, Marion said they did not resemble the children of other drug abusers or those born with fetal alcohol syndrome.

The abnormalities also appear to be caused by the virus itself and not by a deficiency in the mother caused by her disease, he said. "It's important to stress the fact that it doesn't appear to be caused by any womb abnormalities, and there are no other viral infections that cause this sort of thing."

The children also suffered from growth and neurological abnormalities, Marion said, but had not yet developed acquired immune deficiency syndrome or AIDS-related complex.

This finding appears to implicate the HTLV-3 virus as a destructive agent in systems other than the immune system, he said. "We're recognizing in children more and more about the virus that doesn't show up in adults," Marion said. About 25% of babies born to AIDS-infected mothers will become infected with the virus, he predicted.

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