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J Infect Dis. 2011 May 1;203(9):1316-23. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jir031.

HTLV-2B strains, similar to those found in several Amerindian tribes, are endemic in central African Bakola Pygmies.

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Unité d'Epidémiologie et Physiopathologie des Virus Oncogènes, Institut National de la Santéet de la Recherche Médicale, Paris, France.



The presence and origin of endemic foci of human T-lymphotropic virus type 2 (HTLV2) infection in Africa remain a matter of debate.


To better appreciate such determinants, we performed a survey of 1918 inhabitants from Cameroon forest areas, including 1051 Bakola Pygmies and 867 Bantus.


The overall HTLV-1/2 seroprevalence was 4% (49 cases of HTLV-1 and 27 cases of HTLV-2 infection). Both infections were mainly restricted to the Bakola Pygmies, with surprisingly no HTLV-2 infections in the Bantu population. Both HTLV-1 and HTLV-2 seroprevalences increased with age. There was evidence of ongoing HTLV-2 transmission in this population. Lymphoid T cell lines producing HTLV-2 were established. HTLV-2 long terminal repeat sequences (672 base pairs) obtained from 7 infected Bakola were highly similar to each other (<1% nucleotide divergence), as well as to Amerindian HTLV-2B strains. Analyses on a complete sequence (8954 base pairs) confirmed that it was a typical HTLV-2 subtype B strain. Along with molecular clock analysis, these data strongly suggest that HTLV-2 has been endemic in the Bakola Pygmy population for a long time.


This study demonstrates clearly an HTLV-2 endemicity with ongoing transmission in an African population. Furthermore, it give insights into central questions regarding the origins and evolution rate of HTLV-2 and the migrations of infected populations.

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