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Inactivation of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the retrovirus associated with the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), can be achieved both by heating at 56 degrees C and by chemical disinfection with beta-propiolactone (BPL). Such treatment of specimens from patients with suspected AIDS or antibodies to HIV could reduce any occupational risk to laboratory staff. This study demonstrates the effects of these treatments on laboratory analyses. Heat treatment of plasma caused clinically insignificant alteration in the results of electrolyte, urea, creatinine, albumin and glucose concentration, but significant alteration to total protein estimation and the activities of many enzymes. Haemolysis and cell agglutination occurred in many specimens of whole blood, making them unsuitable for haematological analyses. BPL caused less reduction of enzyme activities, and assay of many analytes, including electrolytes, plasma proteins, haemoglobin, white cell and platelet counts, was not significantly affected.