To study the incidence of human T-cell lymphotropic virus (HTLV) after blood transfusion in Taiwan, serum samples from 699 patients in a prospective study were examined for seroreactivity of anti-HTLV. By an enzyme immunoassay, 9 of the 699 recipients were repeatedly positive. Serial serum samples of these 9 patients were then confirmed with a Western blot analysis and with a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay for HTLV-I genome. Four were already positive for anti-HTLV before transfusion, 1 carried antibodies to HTLV-I transiently after transfusion, and only 4 cases had de nova seroconversions. These patients and their family members were called back and tested for HTLV- I genome in the peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) and plasma. All the serologically positive patients, except the “transient one,” were positive for HTLV sequences in the PBMCs. Viral sequences could also be detected in several serum or plasma samples. In the family members, only the spouse of a pretransfusion-positive patient was infected. These results suggested that approximately 0.6% of the blood recipients were infected by HTLV-I through transfusion in Taiwan, and that the frequency of intrafamilial HTLV-I transmission is low. We also observed the unusual coinfection by both HTLV-I and hepatitis C virus in 2 patients, and superinfection of hepatitis C virus after blood transfusion in 1 HTLV-I carrier. Cases of coinfection suggest a prevalence of both viruses in blood donors and warrant further screening.

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