Three reasons that HTLV-I and HTLV-II would not be expected to trace human migrations over extended time periods have been examined, and none has proven fatal to the theory. Transmission of the HTLVs (human T-cell lymphotropic viruses) in endemic settings highly depends on passage through breast milk, and this creates a pattern of distribution similar to that of mitochondrial DNA. The HTLVs probably evolve at variable rates, making the extent of sequence change a poor tool for dating human migrations. However, qualitative relationships between the sequence of human population separations and virus strain may be more regular. The uniqueness of viruses as markers of human rela- tionship gives this method special value as a source of novel ideas re- garding human movements and as independent confirmation of migration hypotheses that have been based on more conventional methods.
Black, Francis L.
"Tracing Prehistoric Migrations by the Viruses They Carry: Human T-Cell Lymphotropic Viruses as Markers of Ethnic Relationships,"
4, Article 2.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/humbiol/vol69/iss4/2