This study aimed at implementing a Nested-polymerase chain reaction (Nested-PCR) for the molecular diagnosis of human T-cell lymphotropic virus type I/II (HTLV-I and HTLV-II) infections in peripheral blood mononuclear cells of infected subjects in Argentina. The sensitivity and specificity of the assay for the detection of regional strains were assessed by comparing them with the molecular assay of reference PCR-hybridization. The Nested-PCR detected 1 MT-2 cell (≥ 8 proviral copies)/1x106
non-infected cells showing high sensitivity for provirus detection. While both molecular assays showed high specificity (100%) for HTLV-I and HTLV-II detection, the sensitivity values differed: 100% for Nested-PCR and 67% for PCR-hybridization assay. Moreover, this technique showed less sensitivity for the detection of DNA sequences of HTLV-II (33%) than for the detection of DNA sequences of HTLV-I (75%).
The high sensitivity and specificity of the Nested-PCR for regional strains and its low costs indicate that this assay could replace the PCR-hybridization assay for the molecular diagnosis of HTLV-I/II infections. It will be interesting to assess the usefulness of this assay as a tool for the molecular diagnosis of HTLV-I/II infections in other developing countries. Other studies that include a greater number of samples should be conducted.