Prevalence of Human Retroviral Infection in Quillabamba and Cuzco, Peru: A New Endemic Area for Human T Cell Lymphotropic Virus Type 1

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  • Instituto de Medicina Tropical Alexander von Humboldt, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, U.S. Naval Medical Research Institute Detachment, Health Ministry, Lima, Peru

An epidemiologic study was conducted to determine the prevalence of retroviral infections among people of Quechua origin in Cuzco and Quillabamba, Peru. The study volunteers included individuals at low and at high risk for retroviral infections. Each volunteer was interviewed to obtain clinical and epidemiologic data, and to identify risk behaviors for infection. The serum was tested for human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) and human T cell lymphotropic virus types 1/2 (HTLV-1/2) by standard enzyme-linked immunosorbent and Western blot assays. Among a total of 370 volunteers enrolled in the study, 276 were women and 94 were men whose ages ranged between 15 and 49 years. Infection with HTLV-1 was demonstrated in 5.1% (19 of 370), and one of these, a homosexual, was also positive for HIV-1; none had HTLV-2. Overall, the rate of HTLV-1 infection was 5.3% (5 of 94) for males and 5% (14 of 276) for females. Among the low risk group of 211 healthy pregnant women, five (2.3%) were positive for HTLV-1. The rate of HTLV-1 infection in this group was significantly correlated with a history of dental surgery, as well as other surgical procedures, and a history of jaundice. Among the volunteers who practiced risk behavior(s) for retroviral infections, the positive rates for HTLV-1 were 13.7% (7 of 51) for female sex workers, 6.2% (3 of 48) for homosexuals and/or bisexuals, 8.5% (4 of 47) for patients with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and 0.0% (0 of 13) for promiscuous heterosexual males. In female sex workers, HTLV-1 infection was found to be significantly associated with age, a history of STDs or genital ulcers, sexual intercourse during menses, and vaginal douching (P < 0.05). A low prevalence of HIV-1 infection indicates that the virus has not yet spread significantly in these areas.

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