Corneoscleral donor tissue from a donor with a positive serum antibody to HTLV-III but without the overt clinical signs of the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) was cultured for the presence of the human T-cell leukemia/lymphotropic virus type III (HTLV-III). The virus was isolated from the two corneal specimens in this patient after the tissue had been stored for four days in McCarey-Kaufman medium. The presence of HTLV-111 was confirmed by the detection of viral core proteins (approximately 24,000 protein, termed P24 gag), by immunofluorescence of a touch preparation of the corneal epithelium as well as in cells cultured in vitro. The percentage of immunofluorescent cells detected by HTLV-III anti-P24 antibody ranged between 2% and 3%. These findings emphasize the possibility of transmission of this virus via corneal transplantation surgery. Although no documented cases of AIDS have occurred in corneal transplant recipients, serologic screening of donors before the use of the tissue for transplantation is advisable.
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