Japanese breast milk samples were tested for antibodies to human T-cell leukemia virus type I (HTLV-1) by particle agglutination (PA) and a line immunoassay (LIA). In the PA method, the agglutination reaction between the HTLV-1 antibody and sensitized particles occurred at a 1 : 128 dilution of some breast milk samples. The average antibody titer was one order of magnitude lower than that in the serum positive control. A total of 243 human breast milk specimens were assayed by PA, of which 21 samples from Okinawa, Hyogo, Miyagi and Hokkaido were positive or deferred. The results of the 21 positive samples were subsequently assayed by LIA (INNO-LIATM HTLV I/II) for confirmation; and one sample was positive, and two were indeterminate. We attempted to use polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to detect HTLV-1 provirus DNA, but we did not detect PCR products for the pX1 region of the HTLV-1 genome in the LIA-positive samples. These negative PCR results are most likely due to the lower sensitivity of the PCR for amplification from milk than from HTLV-1-positive monocytes. In conclusion, the PA method to breast milk samples appears to be a suitable tool to screen for antibodies to HTLV-1 in the breast milk of carrier mothers in cases in which it would be difficult to use serum for the test. Although LIA may be able to confirm HTLV-1 infection, the presence of HTLV-1 provirus should be confirmed in the breast milk.
2012 The Pharmaceutical Society of Japan