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J Med Virol. 2004 Oct;74(2):207-15.

High prevalence of human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) in immigrant male-to-female transsexual sex workers with HIV-1 infection.

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Istituto di Malattie Infettive e Tropicali-Università di Milano, Centro Interdisciplinare per gli Studi Biomolecolari e le Applicazioni Industriali (CISI), Milan, Italy.


Human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 and 2 (HTLV-1 and HTLV-2) infections in Europe are limited to intravenous drug users and migrants coming from areas in which they are endemic. A survey was undertaken of HTLV-1 and HTLV-2 infections in 393 recent immigrants: 167 HIV-1 positive subjects (including 52 male-to-female transsexual sex workers) and 226 pregnant HIV-1 negative women. The prevalence of HTLV-1 was 3.6% in the HIV-1 positive group and 0.9% in the HIV-1 negative group. The highest HTLV-1 prevalence in both groups was found in persons from Latin America, particularly those born in Peru (up to 26% in the HIV-1 positive group). All of the HIV-1/HTLV-1 co-infected individuals were male-to-female transsexual sex workers in whom the overall prevalence of HTLV-1 infection was 11.5%. HTLV-2 was only found in the HIV-1 positive group (prevalence 1.2%); all of the infected subjects were transsexual sex workers from Brazil (overall prevalence 6.4%). Phylogenetic analysis showed that all of the HTLV-1 isolates were of the cosmopolitan type, clustering with other strains circulating in the patients' birthplaces; the HTLV-2 isolates were of subtype 2a, and clustered significantly with other Brazilian strains. These results suggest the independent origin of each infection in the patient's birthplace. The data raise concerns about the further spread of HTLV infections mainly through the sexual route.

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