Type-Specific Immune Response to Human T Cell Lymphotropic Virus (HTLV) Type I and Type II Infections in Nigeria

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  • Laboratory of Viral Oncology and AIDS Research, and Department of Preventive Medicine, University of Southern California School of Medicine, University College Hospital, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Los Angeles, California, Nigeria

Type-specific antibody responses to human T cell lymphotropic virus type I (HTLV-I) and type II (HTLV-II) were studied in blood samples collected from 25 different locations in Nigeria between 1985 and 1991 and stored at the University College Hospital in Ibadan. A total of 4,153 sera were collected from participants in the National Immunity Survey of Viral Infections (n = 1,640), patients with tuberculosis (TB) (n = 140), patients with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) (n = 876), patients with other medical conditions (n = 1,285), female prostitutes (n = 60), and health care workers (n = 152). The overall seroprevalence of HTLV was 5.6%, with similar rates among males and females. Using enzyme immunoassays that differentiated between antibodies to the two viruses, the seroprevalence rates were 2.5% for HTLV-I and 1.9% for HTLV-II, with an additional 1.2% of the samples dually reactive for both HTLV-I and HTLV-II. The seroprevalence rates for HTLV were low among children (0.8%) and adolescents (1.7%), with substantially higher rates among adults (range 5.0–7.4%). Age-specific patterns among adults appears to differ for HTLV-I and HTLV-II, with HTLV-I rates peaking above age 50 and HTLV-II rates peaking below age 50. The highest overall HTLV prevalence rates were observed for STD patients (16.3%), followed by female prostitutes (8.3%), TB patients (6.4%), health care workers (3.3%), patients with other medical conditions (3.2%), and immunity survey participants (1.8%). The similarity of prevalence rates of males and females, as well as the high rates among STD patients and prostitutes, suggest a primary role for heterosexual transmission of these viruses. Prevalence rates of these two viruses do not appear to have increased during the seven-year study period in Nigeria.