Human T-Lymphotropic Virus Type I Infection in the Solomon Islands

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  • National Institutes of Health, Ministry of Health and Medical Services, Central Hospital, Cambridge Biotech Corp., Bethesda, Maryland, Solomon Islands

To ascertain the prevalence of human T-lymphotropic virus type I (HTLV-I) infection and the occurrence of diseases caused by HTLV-I in the Solomon Islands, we tested 1141 sera from 851 patients (317 females and 534 males), who were hospitalized at the Central Hospital in Honiara between February 1984 and November 1988, for antibodies to HTLV-I using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Sera from 69 of 81 ELISA-positive patients and from 56 ELISA-negative patients were then tested by Western analysis. As verified by strict Western immunoblot criteria, the overall HTLV-I seroprevalence was 2.2% (19/851). Age- and gender-specific prevalence data indicated an age-related acquisition of infection with no sexual predominance. No diagnosis category was over-represented among the seropositive patients. HTLV-I-specific antibodies were found in serum and cerebrospinal fluid samples from one of six patients with spastic paraparesis. As in other Melanesian populations, the majority of ELISA-positive sera could not be confirmed by Western analysis. Reactivity to three or more gag-encoded proteins was found in 85% (45/53) of ELISA-positive, Western blot-indeterminate sera, and 30% (16/53) reacted to p19 and an env gene product but lacked reactivity to p24. Whether or not the high frequency of indeterminate HTLV-I Western immunoblots in the Solomon Islands is indicative of incomplete specific reactivity to HTLV-I or the existence of antigenically related retroviruses is being investigated.

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