BMJ 1996; 313 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.313.7071.1564 (Published 14 December 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:1564

Two years ago treatment with zidovudine was shown to reduce the risk of transmission of HIV from pregnant women to their infants. A follow up of 402 mother-infant pairs (New England Journal of Medicine 1996;335:1621-9) has confirmed the protection given by the drug: on testing at 18 months the rate of transmission was 23% in the infants born to women given the placebo but only 8% in those born to women given the drug. Zidovudine was effective regardless of the amount of HIV RNA in the blood or the CD4 cell count. So should not all pregnant women now be tested and, if carrying the virus, treated?

The latest issue of the “Journal of the Royal College of Physicians of London” for 1996 (30:493) has a punchy editorial by David Kerr deploring the indifference of the political establishment to the bicentenary of Jenner's introduction of vaccination against smallpox. The cold shouldering of Jenner began in his lifetime, but he has always been more appreciated in other European nations—truly an example of a prophet without honour in his own country.

Biopsy of the lesions detected at mammography may leave women physically scarred, and this may deter them from attending for later examinations (Cancer 1996;78:2340-5). Replacing surgical biopsy by multiple needle biopsies may prove to be the answer, though …

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