January 1996

In Search of the Holy Grail

Author Affiliations

New Jersey Medical School Newark

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1996;150(1):39. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1996.02170260043006

EVERY TIME I turn on my computer, I watch in awe as it scans for "viruses" in a matter of seconds. Unfortunately, we cannot scan our newborn patients for perinatal infections with equal speed and precision.

Pediatricians have long sought to overcome the difficulty of diagnosis in perinatal infections that is due to the mother's gift of protective antibodies. The search for this elusive assay has been challenging, marked by frequent disappointments, and has pushed the development of new technologies.

Polymerase chain reaction is the latest and perhaps our best attempt to find the Holy Grail of the perinatal diagnostic test. This may be particularly true for HIV infection in the newborn. The lack of availability of this assay for most HIV-exposed newborns has been one of the limiting factors in its widespread use in the United States and especially in the developing world. The report by Nelson et al

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