Prevalence of Human T Cell Lymphotropic Virus Type II in American Indian Populations of the Southwestern United States

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  • Department of Pathology, University of New Mexico School of Medicine, New Mexicoited Blood Services, Retrovirus Diseases Branch, Division of Viral and Rickettsial Diseases and Division of HIV/AIDS, National Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Albuquerque
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We investigated the seroprevalence of human T cell lymphotropic virus type II (HTLV-II) using a screening enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and immunoblot confirmation among the predominant tribes (Pueblo and Athapaskan) served by two large Indian Health Service facilities in New Mexico. Among persons being treated for sexually transmitted diseases, eight (3.2%) of 250 were seropositive for HTLV II, compared with eight (2.1%) of 385 women attending prenatal clinics. In a survey of unselected patients at one of the facilities, 15 (3.4%) of 446 were seropositive. Of 31 seropositive subjects, 25 were infected with HTLV-II and six infections could not be typed. Sera from nine (29%) of the 31 infected subjects had absorbance values less than the manufacturer's cutoff in the ELISA. Both Pueblo and Athapaskan groups had similar overall seroprevalences, but women tended to have a slightly higher seroprevalence than men, and seroprevalence tended to increase with age. These data show that HTLV-II infection is present among diverse groups of American Indians in the southwestern United States. Present ELISA screening tests, such as those used in this study, lack sensitivity to HTLV-II infection unless a reduced absorbance cutoff is used.