OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the presence of human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) infection in isolated rural communities in the southern Andes of Peru.
METHODS: We conducted a cross-sectional study in five communities located in three provinces in Ayacucho, Peru. The five communities are located at >3000 meters above sea level and are mainly rural, and more than 85% of the population speaks Quechua. Volunteers aged 12 years and older were included. Clinical and epidemiological data were collected, along with a blood sample for serological testing.
RESULTS: We included 397 participants; their median age was 41 years (interquartile range 31-57 years) and 69% were women. According to our definitions, 98% were of Quechua origin. HTLV-1 was diagnosed in 11 people: 0/164 in Cangallo, 3/154 (2%) in Vilcashuaman, and 8/79 (10%) in Parinacochas. There were no cases of HTLV-2. All the HTLV-1-positive participants were born in Ayacucho and were of Quechua origin; they ranged in age from 29 to 87 years (median 56 years) and 10/11 were women. Ten were apparently healthy, and one woman was diagnosed with HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP). Three out of 11 had a family member with a lower limb impairment compatible with HAM/TSP.
CONCLUSION: The fact that HTLV-1 infection was present in two out of three provinces suggests that HTLV-1 could be highly endemic in the southern Andes in the Quechua population.