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J Med Virol. 1996 Jan;48(1):22-32.

Evidence in Gabon for an intrafamilial clustering with mother-to-child and sexual transmission of a new molecular variant of human T-lymphotropic virus type-II subtype B.

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Unité d'Epidémiologie des Virus Oncogènes, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France.


Following the observation of an HTLV-II seropositive 60-year-old woman living in Gabon (Central Africa), a serologic and molecular study of her family members was conducted in an attempt to determine the duration of the HTLV-II infection and the modes of transmission of the virus. Among 41 family members, five were HTLV-I seropositive and 7 exhibited specific HTLV-II antibodies in their sera as demonstrated by high immunofluorescence titers on C19 cells and/or specific Western-blot pattern. The second husband of the index case and two of his sisters were infected by the virus, suggesting the presence of HTLV-II in this family over two generations. Sequence analysis of an amplified fragment of 172 nucleotides within the gp21 of the env region (6469-6640) of four HTLV-II infected individuals revealed a new HTLV-II molecular variant of the subtype b diverging from the prototypes NRA and G12 by seven (4.1%) and five (2.9%) bases substitutions, respectively. Molecular analysis of the total env gene (1462 bp) and fragments of the pol and pX regions confirmed that this new African variant was the most divergent HTLV-II subtype b yet described, exhibiting 2.3% of nucleotide substitutions in the env gene (33 bases) as compared to the two HTLV-II b prototypes. These data demonstrate, for the first time in Africa, intrafamilial both mother-to-child transmission and sexual transmission between spouses of an HTLV-II b molecular variant, and also suggest that this virus has been present in Gabon for a long period of time.

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