Of the 267,650 blood donations from members of the US armed forces, 72 (0.027%) were serologically confirmed to be positive for human T- lymphotropic virus type I/II (HTLVpos) and 379 (0.14%) were Western blot (WB)-indeterminate with banding pattern restricted to the proteins encoded by the gag gene only (HTLVind). To determine whether these apparently healthy HTLVind blood donors are infected with HTLV-I or HTLV-II, coded specimens from randomly selected military blood donors (n = 73) were tested for antibodies to HTLV by WB and radioimmunoprecipitation assay (RIPA) using HTLV-I (MT-2) antigens, by enzyme immunoassay using synthetic peptides representing the immunodominant epitopes of HTLV, and for sequences of proviral HTLV DNA by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Of the 73 HTLVind donors, none showed presence of env reactivity by HTLV WB and RIPA. Minimal reactivity was observed with synthetic immunodominant motifs derived from the env protein of HTLV-I (Env-1(191–214) and Env-5(242–257)) or HTLV-II (Env-2(187–209) and Env-20(85–102)) and gag protein (Gag-1a(102– 117) and Gag-10(364–385)). A peptide corresponding to the endogenous retroviral sequence with structural homologies to the gag protein of HTLVs (RTVLgag) reacted with antibodies not only in HTLVpos (88%) and HTLVind (42% to 66%) specimens, but also reacted with normal control subjects (60%). Furthermore, none of the 73 HTLVind specimens demonstrated presence of the HTLV genome when amplified with primers for the pol and tax/rex region. Six to 23 months from the initial test, 27 subjects still gave indeterminate WB patterns, and 13 of these repeat specimens were still negative for the presence of HTLV genome. We conclude that individuals at low risk for HTLV infection who have HTLVind WB reactivity are rarely, if ever, infected with HTLV-I or HTLV- II.

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