HTLV-II infection associated with a chronic neurodegenerative disease: clinical and molecular analysis

J Med Virol. 2002 Feb;66(2):253-7. doi: 10.1002/jmv.2138.


HTLV II is a retrovirus endemic in some Amerindian tribes and spread worldwide with a high prevalence among intravenous drug abusers. It has three different genetic subtypes a, b, and d, defined mainly by the long terminal repeat (LTR) region. HTLV II has been associated with a neurodegenerative disease in few cases. We describe the first well-documented case in Brazil where the virus is endemic in isolated ethnic groups. The patient is a 55-year-old woman with a chronic and painful syndrome characterized by spastic paraparesis, hyperactive reflexes and spastic bladder. Somatosensory evoked potential indicates a thoracic spinal cord lesion. Computer tomography showed periventricular demyelination. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay was positive for HTLV I/II whereas the discriminatory Western blot was indeterminate. Molecular analysis of the Tax region revealed a HTLV II pattern that was also confirmed through sequencing the LTR region. Phylogenetic analysis of the LTR sequence shows an HTLV IIa subtype that clustered with the virus isolated from Kayapo Indians and Brazilian urban intravenous drug users. Indeterminate Western blots are frequently found using commercial kits, therefore we recommend that all cases in which a myelopathy is associated with an indeterminate serological result should be evaluated by PCR to determine the actual number of HTLV II associated myelopathy cases.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brazil
  • Chronic Disease
  • DNA, Viral / analysis
  • Female
  • HTLV-II Infections / complications*
  • HTLV-II Infections / virology
  • Human T-lymphotropic virus 2 / classification*
  • Human T-lymphotropic virus 2 / genetics*
  • Human T-lymphotropic virus 2 / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Paraparesis, Tropical Spastic / physiopathology
  • Paraparesis, Tropical Spastic / virology*
  • Phylogeny
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • DNA, Viral

Associated data

  • GENBANK/AF275905