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Patterns of migration indicate sexual transmission of HTLV-I infection in non-pregnant women in Papua New Guinea.

Brabin L, Brabin BJ, Doherty RR, Gust ID, Alpers MP, Fujino R, Imai J, Hinuma Y

  • Journal International journal of cancer

  • Published 16 Aug 1989

  • Volume 44

  • ISSUE 1

  • Pagination 59-62

  • DOI 10.1002/ijc.2910440111


The prevalence of infection with human T-cell leukaemia virus (HTLV-I) was studied in Madang Province on the north coast of Papua New Guinea. Serum specimens collected from non-pregnant women in 17 villages were tested for anti-HTLV-I by gelatin particle agglutination screening and confirmed by immunofluorescence and Western blotting. Overall, 13.9% of subjects were antibody-positive, with the prevalence of antibodies varying from less than 10% to 30% in villages situated less than 10 km apart. Two groups of migrant women were identified, and in both a parity-related increase in antibody prevalence which occurred only after marriage suggested that the predominant mode of transmission in migrant women was sexual. There was no parity-associated increase in anti-HTLV-I in indigenous women, and in contrast to migrant women, nulliparous indigenous women had a high prevalence of antibody (16.8% vs. 0%; p = 0.005). Vertical transmission cannot be excluded in indigenous women. No correlation was detected between the prevalence of anti-HTLV-I and a variety of indices of malarial infection.