HTLV-associated myelopathy in a cohort of HTLV-I and HTLV-II-infected blood donors Academic Article uri icon

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  • OBJECTIVE: HTLV-I-associated myelopathy (HAM) is a slowly progressive spastic paraparesis caused by infection with human T-lymphotropic virus type I (HTLV-I). The prevalence of HAM among those infected with HTLV-I is poorly defined, and the association of a similar myelopathy with HTLV-II infection has not been confirmed. DESIGN: Cross-sectional examination of HTLV-I, HTLV-II, and control subjects from the baseline visit of a cohort study. SETTING/ SUBJECTS: Persons testing HTLV seropositive at the time of blood donation at five U.S. blood centers, their seropositive sex partners, and a matched control group of HTLV seronegative blood donors. MEASUREMENTS: HTLV-I and HTLV-II were differentiated by serology and/or polymerase chain reaction. All subjects received systematic neurologic screening examinations. RESULTS: A diagnosis of myelopathy was confirmed in four of 166 HTLV-I subjects (2.4%, 95% confidence interval 0.7%, 6.1%) and in one of 404 HTLV-II subjects (0.25%, 95% confidence interval 0.0%, 0.6%). None of the 798 controls had a similar myelopathy, although one had longstanding typical multiple sclerosis. CONCLUSIONS: Our data also suggest that HAM occurs more frequently among HTLV-I-infected subjects than reported by previous studies. The HTLV-II infected myelopathy patient identified in this cohort, together with three other case reports in the literature, implies a pathogenic role for this human retrovirus. The diagnosis of HTLV-associated myelopathy should be considered in cases of spastic paraparesis or neurogenic bladder when risk factors for HTLV-I or HTLV-II infection are present.


  • Murphy, EL
  • Fridey, J
  • Smith, James
  • Engstrom, J
  • Sacher, RA
  • Miller, K
  • Gibble, J
  • Stevens, J
  • Thomson, R
  • Hansma, D
  • Kaplan, J
  • Khabbaz, R
  • Nemo, G

publication date

  • February 1, 1997

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