Skip to main content

Molecular epidemiology of endemic Human T-Lymphotropic virus 1 (HTLV-1) in a community in rural Guinea-Bissau


HTLV-1 is endemic in parts of Africa and the highest prevalence (5%) in West Africa has been reported in Caio, a rural area in Guinea-Bissau. It is unknown which HTLV-1 subtypes are present in this community.


To compare local HTLV-1 sequence variation and to describe the phylogeny of the virus in the Caio population.


The complete Long Terminal Repeat (LTR) region of HTLV-1 samples from children and adults was sequenced. Socio-demographic data were obtained from routine census data and from interviews. Phylogenetic analyses were performed to characterize the viruses.


The complete 800-bp LTR sequences from 38 HLTV-1 infected adults and 8 children were obtained. Strikingly, sequences from many unrelated individuals showed 100% nucleotide identity (e.g. one group of 10 individuals had identical sequences). Phylogenetic analysis demonstrated that 45 of the sequences belonged to the cosmopolitan subtype A, subgroup D. One sequence, Caio4046, was divergent and formed a significant cluster with the STLV-1 sequences from the Central African Republic and Senegal and with a recently identified HTLV-1 strain from a Cameroonian hunter (tentatively designated subtype G) [1] and belonged to a woman without known monkey contact.


Markedly conserved HTLV-1 strains of the cosmopolitan subtype A, subgroup D, predominate in this rural community. However, HTLV-1 subtype G is also present. This subtype has not been described before in a non-hunter or in West Africa and suggests this subtype may be more widespread than previously thought. Additional sequencing can give more information about the frequency of this subtype in Caio.


  1. Wolfe ND, Heneine W, Carr JK, Garcia AD, Shanmugam V, Tamoufe U, Torimiro JN, Prosser AT, Lebreton M, Mpoudi-Ngole E: Emergence of unique primate T-lymphotropic viruses among central African bushmeat hunters. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005, 102: 7994-7999. 10.1073/pnas.0501734102.

    Article  PubMed Central  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Carla van Tienen.

Rights and permissions

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

van Tienen, C., de Silva, T.I., Alcantara, L.C. et al. Molecular epidemiology of endemic Human T-Lymphotropic virus 1 (HTLV-1) in a community in rural Guinea-Bissau. Retrovirology 8 (Suppl 1), A71 (2011).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • DOI: