Virologists call for worldwide effort to eradicate HTLV-1 virus

May 28, 2018 by Bob Yirka, Medical Xpress report
This image revealed the presence of both the human T-cell leukemia type-1 virus (HTLV-1), (also known as the human T lymphotropic virus type-1 virus), and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Human T-cell leukemia virus type-1 (HTLV-1), a human oncoretrovirus, is the etiologic agent of adult T-cell leukemia, and of tropical spastic paraparesis/HTLV-1–associated myelopathy. Two closely related retroviruses, HIV-1 and HIV-2, have been identified as causing AIDS in different geographic regions. HIV-1 causes most cases of AIDS in the U.S., with only a few cases of HIV-2 having been found in the U.S. Epidemiologically, HIV-2 has been found to be mostly an infection of persons from West Africa. Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Public Health Image Library

A pair of noted virologists has sent a letter to the director of the World Health Organization calling for a stronger effort to eradicate HTLV-1—a retrovirus that, among other things, is a cause of adult leukemia. In their letter, Fabiola Martin, with The University of Queensland and Robert Gallo with the University of Maryland School of Medicine, suggest that it is time the world community paid more attention to the virus and the harm it is doing. The letter was signed by 58 other virologists. Kai Kupferschmidt a contributing correspondent for Science Health offers a commentary on the letter in the journal Science and explains why they wrote it.

Scientists have known about HTLV-1 since 1980, Kupferschmidt explains. It was the first human retrovirus ever discovered (Gallo was part of that team) and its discovery led to better understanding HIV. Since that time, researchers have found that in addition to being a cause of adult T-cell leukemia, it can also cause tropical spastic paraparesis, a disease that is similar to multiple sclerosis. There is also some evidence that it might be behind some other health problems related to immunity or inflammatory diseases.

Kupferschmidt notes that the virus does not lead to a huge number of human deaths, which explains why it has been underreported. But, he also notes, it is a major threat because of the large numbers of . Most people who are infected develop few if any symptoms. But they are able to pass it on to others in the same ways as HIV, via semen, blood transfusions and breast milk. And other than Japan and Australia, most of the people infected live in poor countries, often in remote areas. Millions are believed to be infected in remote parts of Brazil, for example, and recent estimates have shown that roughly half of the adults living in aboriginal communities in Australia are infected.

But the virus is easily reduced. Rates dropped from 7.2 percent, for example, to just 1 percent in Japan's Nagasaki region after an eradication program was instituted. This is why the researchers penned their and why virologists around the world are supporting them by calling for routine testing in clinics around the globe. There is no reason not to, they point out, as infections could be drastically reduced through a concerted effort.

Explore further: Researchers make key discovery about human cancer virus protein

More information: Fabiola Martin et al. Time to eradicate HTLV-1: an open letter to WHO, The Lancet (2018). DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(18)30974-7

Related Stories

Researchers make key discovery about human cancer virus protein

May 15, 2018
University of Minnesota researchers in the dentistry school-based Institute for Molecular Virology (IMV) have made a key discovery that could have important implications for developing a strategy to stop the spread of a highly ...

Leukemia-causing retrovirus HTLV-1 vaccine a future possibility

April 13, 2018
A study appearing in the in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences gives new clues into how cancers like leukemia form from the retrovirus HTLV-1, as well as insights into the possible creation of a vaccine.

Mechanisms of persistent infection for the human T-cell leukemia virus

June 3, 2016
Joint research between scientists from Kumamoto University, Japan and Imperial College London, UK has revealed the mechanisms of persistent latent infection of the human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1). This is an important ...

Mogamulizumab cuts infected cells in HTLV-1 myelopathy

February 8, 2018
(HealthDay)—For patients with human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1)-associated myelopathy-tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM-TSP), treatment with the humanized anti-CCR4 monoclonal antibody that targets infected cells, ...

Discovery of new strains of the HTLV-4 virus in hunters bitten by gorillas in Gabon

July 13, 2016
Scientists from the Institut Pasteur and the CNRS have identified two new strains of the HTLV-4 virus in two hunters who were bitten by gorillas in Gabon. These findings, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, ...

Recommended for you

Discovery of novel mechanisms that cause migraines

December 17, 2018
Researchers at CNRS, Université Côte d'Azur and Inserm have demonstrated a new mechanism related to the onset of migraine. They found how a mutation that causes dysfunction in a protein which inhibits neuronal electrical ...

Small-scale poultry farming could mean big problem in developing countries

December 16, 2018
Small-scale farming in developing countries provides those in rural communities with income and access to protein, but it may have a large impact on antibiotic resistance, according to a new University of Michigan study.

RNA processing and antiviral immunity

December 14, 2018
The RIG-I like receptors (RLRs) are intracellular enzyme sentries that detect viral infection and initiate a first line of antiviral defense. The cellular molecules that activate RLRs in vivo are not clear.

Faster test for Ebola shows promising results in field trials

December 13, 2018
A team of researchers with members from the U.S., Senegal and Guinea, in cooperation with Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD), has developed a faster test for the Ebola virus than those currently in use. In their paper published ...

Urbanisation and air travel leading to growing risk of pandemic

December 13, 2018
Increased arrivals by air and urbanisation are the two main factors leading to a growing vulnerability to pandemics in our cities, a University of Sydney research team has found.

Drug targets for Ebola, Dengue, and Zika viruses found in lab study

December 13, 2018
No drugs are currently available to treat Ebola, Dengue, or Zika viruses, which infect millions of people every year and result in severe illness, birth defects, and even death. New research from the Gladstone Institutes ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.