The oncogenic retrovirus human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) is endemic in some countries although its prevalence and relationship with other sexually transmitted infections in Sub-Saharan Africa is largely unknown. A novel endpoint PCR method was used to analyse the prevalence of HTLV-1 proviral DNA in genomic DNA extracted from liquid based cytology (LBC) cervical smears and invasive cervical carcinomas (ICCs) obtained from human immunodeficiency virus-positive (HIV+ve) and HIV-negative (HIV-ve) Kenyan women. Patient sociodemographic details were recorded by structured questionnaire and these data analysed with respect to HIV status, human papillomavirus (HPV) type (Papilocheck(®)) and cytology. This showed 22/113 (19.5%) of LBC's from HIV+ve patients were positive for HTLV-1 compared to 4/111 (3.6%) of those from HIV-ve women (p = 0.0002; odds ratio (OR) = 6.42 (2.07-26.56)). Only 1/37 (2.7%) of HIV+ve and none of the 44 HIV-ve ICC samples were positive for HTLV-1. There was also a significant correlation between HTLV-1 infection, numbers of sexual partners (p < 0.05) and smoking (p < 0.01). Using this unique method, these data suggest an unexpectedly high prevalence of HTLV-1 DNA in HIV+ve women in this geographical location. However, the low level of HTLV-1 detected in HIV+ve ICC samples was unexpected and the reasons for this are unclear.
Keywords: PCR; human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1); human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); human papilloma virus (HPV); invasive cervical cancer (ICC); liquid based cytology (LBC); proviral DNA; retrovirus.