A seroepidemiological study of naturally occurring antibodies to the human syncytial virus has been carried out by means of an indirect immunofluorescence test on 639 East Africans, consisting of 493 normal Ugandans, 66 Kenyan patients with nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC), and 80 Kenyan and Tanzanian patients with various other tumours or non-cancerous conditions. It was found that 3.4% of the normal individuals had antibodies to the virus and serial serum samples were available from 14 of these, permitting the study of antibody class in seroconversion and antibody persistence. As in an earlier survey, a significantly higher incidence of antibodies was found amongst NPC patients. Blocking and indirect immunofluorescence tests with simian foamy viruses (SFV) showed some cross-reactivity between SFV 6 and the human syncytial virus, but not identity. The results are discussed in relation to the very real occurrence of natural infection by human syncytial virus in certain geographical regions.


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