High prevalence of human T‐cell lymphotropic virus type I (HTLV‐I) infection and disease has been identified among Iranian‐born Mashhadi Jews, an ethnically segregated, highly inbred population. To determine the origin and genetic diversity of HTLV‐I in this group, 1,039 bp spanning selected regions of the HTLV‐I gag, pol, env and pX genes were enzymatically amplified and sequenced directly from DMA of five Mashhadi Jews (three with spastic myelopathy and two asymptomatic carriers). Alignment and comparison of these sequences with cosmopolitan and Australo‐Melanesian topotypes of HTLV‐I indicated that the HTLV‐I strains from Mashhadi Jews, which were ⩾99.9% identical among themselves, exhibited considerable sequence similarity (⩾99%) to HTLV‐I strains from southern India, suggesting a common source of infection. Phylogenetic analysis, using the maximum parsimony method, was consistent with a single‐source introduction of HTLV‐I into the Mashhadi Jewish community. © 1995 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.
- poly‐merase chain reaction