NORD gratefully acknowledges Marco A. Lima, MD, PhD, Researcher, Instituto de e Pesquisa Clinica Evandro Chagas/FIOCRUZ, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the preparation of this report.
HTLV-I was first isolated in 1980 from a patient originally thought to have a cutaneous lymphoma. It became clear that it was a distinct form of lymphoma, which was designated as acute T-cell leukemia/ lymphoma (ATL). Some years later, different groups in Martinique and Japan described an association between a chronic disease of the spinal cord and HTLV-I infection, which was later named HTLV-I associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP). Since then, several other conditions have been linked to HTLV infection.
It is estimated that between 10 and 20 million people are infected by HTLV-I in the world. Only 0.25-2% of the infected individuals will develop a progressive neurologic disease named HTLV-I associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP). Approximately 2-5% of HTLV-I carriers will develop ATL. More rarely, HTLV-I may lead to arthropathy, uveitis (inflammation of the eye), pneumonitis and thyroid problems. Areas of the world that are endemic to the HTLV-1 virus are the Caribbean, southern Japan, equatorial Africa, Middle East, South America, and Melanesia.
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