The Use of the Polymerase Chain Reaction in the Detection, Quantification and Characterization of Human Retroviruses
Retroviruses are the etiologic agents of a host of diseases found in vertebrates. These include malignancies such as lymphomas, leukemias, sarcomas and carcinomas; autoimmune diseases such as arthritis and lupus; and cytopathic diseases leading to anemias and immune deficiency states. There are four well characterized human retroviruses (Figure 1). Human T-cell lymphoma/leukemia virus type I and II (HTLV-I and II) are oncornaviruses. HTLV-I is believed to be the etiologic agent of adult T-cell lymphoma/leukemia (ATLL) and a progressive neurological disorder formerly called tropical spastic paraparesis and now termed HTLV-I associated myelopathy (HAM) (Bhagavati et al. 1988; Ehrlich and Poiesz 1988; Poiesz et al. 1980). HTLV-I is also associated with immune deficiency. HTLV-I infection is endemic in Southern Japan, the Caribbean and Central Africa. In the United States, HTLV-I infection is most prevalent in the Southeastern section of the country among rural blacks, but is has also been identified in patients throughout America and appears to be increasing in prevalence among intravenous drug abusers (IVDA) (Ehrlich and Poiesz, 1988; Ratner and Poiesz, 1988). HTLV-II is approximately 65% homologous to HTLV-I (Kalyanaraman et al. 1982). It has been associated with rare cases of T-cell and hairy cell leukemias, but its exact disease association and endemic area of infection are unclear at this time. HTLV-II infection is also being diagnosed with greater frequency in American IVDA (Ehrlich et al. 1989). HTLV-V is a recently described retrovirus with limited homology to HTLV-I (Manzari et al. 1987). It has been identified in a few patients with CD4+ cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, but the virus has not been completely characterized and its disease association is poorly understood.
KeywordsPolymerase Chain Reaction Acquire Immune Deficiency Syndrome Hairy Cell Leukemia Conventional Polymerase Chain Reaction Slot Blot Hybridization
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