Human T Cell Lymphotropic Virus Infection in Guaymi Indians from Panama

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  • Division of Viral and Rickettsial Diseases, Center for Infectious Diseases and Division of Field Services, Epidemiology Program Office, Centers for Disease Control, Division of Epidemiology, Gorgas Memorial Laboratory, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Atlanta, Georgia
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Preliminary studies found that 9% of Guaymi Indians from Bocas del Toro province have antibody to human T cell lymphotropic virus (HTLV-I/II). The present study enrolled 317 (21% of the population) Guaymi Indians from Changuinola, the capital of Bocas del Toro province and 333 (70% of the population) from Canquintu, an isolated rural village. Demographic information and family relationships were ascertained and subjects were screened for neurologic diseases. Serum specimens were screened by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay for HTLV-I/II antibody and positives were confirmed according to U.S. Public Health Service criteria. Twenty-five (8%) Guaymi residing in Changuinola and 7 (2.1%) from Canquintu were confirmed seropositive. In Changuinola, antibody was virtually limited to residents ≥15 years of age (24 [16%] of 153) and rates were slightly higher in males than in females; in Canquintu, antibody rates did not increase significantly with age and appeared higher in females than in males. In Changuinola, there was no evidence for household clustering of infection. In contrast, HTLV antibody among Canquintu residents clustered significantly by household. HTLV-associated neurologic disease was not detected in either population. The atypical seroepidemiology observed in both locations might be explained if the virus endemic to the Guaymi differed from HTLV-I previously described in the Caribbean basin and Japan.