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.
There are two types of HTLV: HTLV-I and HTLV-II.
Factors that increase your chances of getting HTLV-I include:
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.
Your doctor will ask 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:
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 February 25, 2013.
General information—HTLV. Health Protection Agency website. Available at: http://www.hpa.org.uk/web/HPAweb&Page&HPAwebAutoListName/Page/1191942172148#who. Accessed February 25, 2013.
HTLV virus. Baylor College of Medicine website. Available at: http://www.bcm.edu/molvir/index.cfm?pmid=16506. Updated July 31, 2012. Accessed February 25, 2013.
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 February 25, 2013.
Tropical spastic paraparesis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated July 9, 2010. Accessed February 25, 2013.
What is HTLV-II? The National Centre for Human Retrovirology website. Available at: http://www.htlv1.eu/htlv_two.html. Accessed February 25, 2013.
Last reviewed July 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.