Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 24086779
PLoS Negl Trop Dis 2013;7(9):e2418
BACKGROUND: HTLV-1 infection is endemic among people of Melanesian descent in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. Molecular studies reveal that these Melanesian strains belong to the highly divergent HTLV-1c subtype. In Australia, HTLV-1 is also endemic among the Indigenous people of central Australia; however, the molecular epidemiology of HTLV-1 infection in this population remains poorly documented.
FINDINGS: Studying a series of 23 HTLV-1 strains from Indigenous residents of central Australia, we analyzed coding (gag, pol, env, tax) and non-coding (LTR) genomic proviral regions. Four complete HTLV-1 proviral sequences were also characterized. Phylogenetic analyses implemented with both Neighbor-Joining and Maximum Likelihood methods revealed that all proviral strains belong to the HTLV-1c subtype with a high genetic diversity, which varied with the geographic origin of the infected individuals. Two distinct Australians clades were found, the first including strains derived from most patients whose origins are in the North, and the second comprising a majority of those from the South of central Australia. Time divergence estimation suggests that the speciation of these two Australian clades probably occurred 9,120 years ago (38,000-4,500).
CONCLUSIONS: The HTLV-1c subtype is endemic to central Australia where the Indigenous population is infected with diverse subtype c variants. At least two Australian clades exist, which cluster according to the geographic origin of the human hosts. These molecular variants are probably of very ancient origin. Further studies could provide new insights into the evolution and modes of dissemination of these retrovirus variants and the associated ancient migration events through which early human settlement of Australia and Melanesia was achieved.