Human T cell lymphotropic virus type I (HTLV-I) infection in India has been found to be associated with adult T cell leukaemia/lymphoma (ATLL) and HTLV-I-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP) among life-long residents of southern India. To examine the heterogeneity of HTLV-I strains from southern India and to determine their relationship with the sequence variants of HTLV-I from Melanesia, 1149 nucleotides spanning selected regions of the HTLV-I and genes were amplified and directly sequenced from DNA extracted from whole blood blotted onto filter paper and from peripheral blood mononuclear cells, obtained from one patient with HAM/TSP, two with ATLL and eight asymptomatic carriers from Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Sequence alignments and comparisons indicated that the 11 HTLV-I strains from southern India were 99.2% to 100% identical among themselves and 98.7% to 100% identical to the Japanese prototype HTLV-I ATK. The majority of base substitutions were transitions and silent. No frameshifts, insertions, deletions or possibly disease-specific base changes were found in the regions sequenced. The observed clustering of the Indian HTLV-I strains with those from Japan, as determined by the maximum parsimony method, suggested a common source of HTLV-I infection with subsequent parallel evolution. Amplification of DNA from blood specimens collected on filter paper may be useful for the study of other blood-borne pathogens.


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