Human T cell lymphotropic virus (HTLV) infects a type of white blood cell called a T-cell or T-lymphocyte. White blood cells are a type of cell that helps fight infection. HTLV is a type of retrovirus that can cause cancer. It is different than the retrovirus that causes AIDS.
There are 2 types of HTLV: HTLV-I and HTLV-II.
Factors that may increase the chances of getting HTLV-I:
People of American Indian or African Pygmy descent are at greater risk for HTLV-II.
Factors may that increase the chances of getting HTLV-II:
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:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
The Canadian Hematology Society
Human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T921515/Human-T-cell-lymphotropic-virus-type-1-HTLV-1. Updated February 19, 2018. Accessed March 13, 2018.
Human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV). New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services website. Available at: https://www.oasas.ny.gov/AdMed/FYI/HTLV-FYI.cfm. Accessed March 13, 2018.
What is HTLV-II? The National Centre for Human Retrovirology website. Available at: http://www.htlv1.eu/htlv_two.html. Accessed March 13, 2018.
Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcie L. Sidman, 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.