Laboratory workers handling the AIDS virus should wear two layers of latex gloves because many gloves are marred by tiny defects that could allow a virus to reach the skin, according to a study published in the journal Nature. The researchers said they used an electron microscope to study about two dozen latex gloves made by four manufacturers.
The examination found pits up to 15 microns wide and 30 microns deep both inside and outside the gloves--pits that the researchers claim could eventually widen into holes. In addition, winding channels up to 5 microns wide, some passing all the way through the gloves, were present in all the gloves.
The human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS is one-tenth of a micron wide, researchers said, narrow enough to slip through the channels. A micron is about 1/25,000th of an inch, the researchers said.
"Despite a recent report that gloves exclude virus cultures, our findings suggest that double gloving . . . is a prudent expedient for those handling HIV or hepatitis-B virus-infected material," wrote the researchers from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., Georgetown University Hospital in Washington and Advanced Biotechnologies of Silver Spring, Md.
One of the scientists, Dr. Cecil Fox, an AIDS researcher at the institutes, said the latest findings underscore the need for better quality control and labeling of latex gloves. He noted that a previous study by Johns Hopkins School of Nursing in Baltimore found the interiors of 20% of latex gloves to be contaminated with bacteria after gloved hands were washed in solutions containing bacteria.