Human retroviruses.

Baillière's Clinical Haematology
T WeberA F Fleming


It was only in 1980 that the first human retrovirus, HTLV-1, was isolated. Since then, HTLV-2, HIV-1 and HIV-2 have been identified. All four viruses are transmitted with varying efficiency sexually, vertically from mother to infant, and through blood by transfusion or contamination. HTLV-1 is endemic in populations in south-west Japan, Taiwan, sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean, southern USA, central and south America, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and western Asia. There is now epidemic spread amongst IVDUs in north and south America and southern Europe. HTLV-1 is the aetiological agent of adult T-cell leukaemia/lymphoma (ATL) and tropical spastic paraparesis/HTLV-1 associated myelopathy (TSP/HAM). Other associations which may be causative are with polymyositis, infective dermatitis, gastrointestinal malignant lymphoma and chronic lymphatic leukaemia. ATL appears to be due to malignant transformation of HTLV-1 infected cells, and TSP/HAM to chronic activation of these cells. The epidemiology of HTLV-2 is being separated only recently from HTLV-1 through the application of PCR. It has a low level of endemicity in populations of central Africa, and central and south America. It is being spread epidemically amongst...Continue Reading


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