Human T-cell lymphotropic virus type I (HTLV-I) and human T-cell lymphotropic virus type II (HTLV-II) have been associated with adult T- cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATL) and a rare T-cell variant of hairy cell leukemia, respectively. Direct detection of viral nucleic acid in peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs) and infected tissues in carrier patients and those with chronic disease has proven refractory due to viral transcriptional dormancy and the small number of infected cells present. The investigators report here the successful application of the DNA amplification procedure, termed PCR, to the detection of these human oncoviruses. Judicious selection of specific oligonucleotides for primers and probes provides type-specific and simultaneous detection of these two retroviruses. The ability to amplify and detect highly conserved regions of these medically relevant viruses may facilitate the identification of, as yet, uncharacterized retroviruses.

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