Title: HTLV-1aA introduction into Brazil and its association with the trans-Atlantic slave trade
Authors: Amoussa AE, Wilkinson E, Giovanetti M, de Almeida Rego FF, Araujo TH, de Souza Goncalves M, de Oliveira T, Alcantara LC.
Journal: Infection, Genetics and Evolution,48:doi: 10.1016/j.meegid.2016.12.005 (2016)


INTRODUCTION: Human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV) is an endemic virus in some parts of the world, with Africa being home to most of the viral genetic diversity. In Brazil, HTLV-1 is endemic amongst Japanese and African immigrant populations. Multiple introductions of the virus in Brazil from other epidemic foci were hypothesized. The long terminal repeat (LTR) region of HTLV-1 was used to infer the origin of the virus in Brazil, using phylogenetic analysis.

METHODS: LTR sequences were obtained from the HTLV-1 database (http://htlv1db.bahia.fiocruz.br). Sequences were aligned and maximum-likelihood and Bayesian tree topologies were inferred. Brazilian specific clusters were identified and molecular-clock and coalescent models were used to estimate each cluster's time to the most recent common ancestor (tMRCA).

RESULTS: Three Brazilian clusters were identified with a posterior probability ranged from 0.61 to 0.99. Molecular clock analysis of these three clusters dated back their respective tMRCAs between the year 1499 and the year 1668. Additional analysis also identified a close association between Brazilian sequences and new sequences from South Africa.

CONCLUSION: Our results support the hypothesis of a multiple introductions of HTLV-1 into Brazil, with the majority of introductions occurring in the post-Colombian period. Our results further suggest that HTLV-1 introduction into Brazil was facilitated by the trans-Atlantic slave trade from endemic areas of Africa. The close association between southern African and Brazilian sequences also suggested that greater numbers of the southern African Bantu population might also have been part of the slave trade than previously thought.