Human T cell lymphotropic virus (HTLV) infects a type of white blood cell called a T-cell or T-lymphocyte. White blood cells help fight infection.
HTLV infection is caused by a specific virus.
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There are two types of HTLV: HTLV-I and HTLV-II.
Factors that increase your chances of getting HTLV-I include:
People of American Indian or African Pygmy descent are at greater risk for HTLV-II.
Factors that increase your chances of getting HTLV-II include:
More than 95% of people with HTLV do not have symptoms. However, having the virus puts you at higher risk of developing certain conditions.
If you are infected with HTLV-I or HTLV-II, you may also develop a disorder of the nervous system known as HTLV associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP). It can cause weakness, numbness and stiffness in the legs, and difficulty walking.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
HTLV infection can only be diagnosed with a specific blood test. The presence of HTLV antibodies is a sign of infection with the virus.
There is no treatment that can remove the virus from the body. Treatment is aimed at managing HTLV-associated diseases and reducing their symptoms.
To prevent spreading HTLV to others:
To help reduce your chance of getting the virus:
Baylor College of Medicine
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Public Health Agency of Canada
Blood Systems. HTLV-I/II information sheet. United Blood Services website. Available at: http://hospitals.unitedbloodservices.org/forms/BS_352.pdf. Accessed January 16, 2015.
Human T-Lymphotropic Virus (HTLV). New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services website. Available at: http://www.oasas.ny.gov/AdMed/FYI/HTLV-FYI.cfm. Accessed January 16, 2015.
Tropical spastic paraparesis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated July 9, 2010. Accessed January 16, 2015.
What is HTLV-II? The National Centre for Human Retrovirology website. Available at: http://www.htlv1.eu/htlv_two.html. Accessed January 16, 2015.
Last reviewed January 2015 by Michael Woods, MD Last Updated: 1/13/2014