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Scalpel injury in laboratory.



I am currently working on a laboratory and I am handling cancer tissues which are stored in the fridge.
Each tissue is the size of a peanut and it has been stored in deep freeze for more than 10 years.While cutting one of the tissues with the scalpel, I accidentally held the scalpel wrong and I got a small cut in my index finger(maybe 1mm deep? It did not require stitches, I washed away the blood and I cleaned the wound immediately). The scalpel was not new, it was a bit dirty from previous tissues (though anything on it was dry)
Should I worry or should I seek prophylaxis?
The patient giving the sample did not have a known history of HIV, however I am considering the possibility that he was on a serological window or that he did not know it. In general, there were no tissues with known HIV, there were some with Hep which I did not handle.

Thank you and please answer as soon as possible!


Hi there,

Thank you for your inquiry. From what we gather from the question, you were asking about the possibility of HIV transmission in the event that you had cut yourself using a scalpel you previously used on tissue that has been stored in a deep freeze for more than 10 years.

From the information given, this scenario is determined to be of No Risk (Transmission of HIV is not possible in the given scenario).

HIV is extremely volatile when exposed to oxygen and does not replicate outside of the human host. Any exposure to environmental surfaces causes a rapid reduction in HIV concentration in HIV positive fluid (1). In this circumstance; in order for there to be a significant threat, you would need to have cut yourself after cutting the tissue (which would be HIV positive) in a vacuum sealed environment with low, low temperature. This does not appear to be the case.

For this reason, we would consider your scenario to be of No Risk for HIV transmission.

Recommendation: No need for HIV testing for the given scenario. Please refer to your health care provider for additional health related questions.

All the best,

AIDS Vancouver Online/Helpline, Cody