An epidemiological survey on the presence of serum antibodies to human T lymphotropic retrovirus III (HTLV-III) is reported. The study was carried out on people living in large as well as small cities in different Italian regions. Serum samples of 21 patients with AIDS, 402 with ARCS, and 920 from individuals at risk for these diseases were analyzed. The percentage of positive sera varied from 81% in AIDS, to 100% -33.3% in ARC according to the different geographical areas and/or the various categories of people with ARC. The percentage of positive sera in individuals at risk for AIDS or ARC varied from 11.9% in homosexuals, to 21% in drug abusers and 23.1% in haemophiliacs. No positive sera were observed among 660 normal individuals, relatives of patients with AIDS or ARC and in 114 patients suffering from immunological or infectious disease and among people at risk living in small cities. Sera were also negative in patients with classical Kaposi's sarcoma or T-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Since none of the 660 unselected normal adults were positive while a significant percentage of people at risk for AIDS showed antibodies to HTLV-III, we may presume that this infection is prevalent in the Italian categories in which AIDS and ARC are most likely to develop.
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