Human T-lymphotropic virus types 1 and 2 are rare among intravenous drug users in Eastern Europe

Infect Genet Evol. 2016 Sep;43:83-5. doi: 10.1016/j.meegid.2016.05.022. Epub 2016 May 17.


Background: In Europe, human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV) type 2 mainly occurs among intravenous drug users (IDUs) with prevalence up to 15% and HTLV-1 among general population with prevalence <1%. However, there is no data regarding the prevalence of HTLV-1 or HTLV-2 in Eastern European IDUs population where HIV prevalence is relatively high. We aimed to determine the prevalence and genotypes of HTLV-1/HTLV-2 among IDUs and healthy volunteers in Estonia.

Methods: The study included 345 IDUs and 138 healthy volunteers. The presence of HTLV-1/HTLV-2 was determined by nested PCR; positive and negative controls were used in every PCR run.

Results: The analysed IDUs resembled the IDUs of HIV epidemic in Estonia: mainly male (79%) with median age of 30years (interquartile range [IQR] 25-34), and prolonged duration of intravenous drug usage (11years; IQR 7-14). The prevalence exposure to blood-borne viral infections was high - 50% were HIV positive, 88% hepatitis C positive, 67% hepatitis B positive. Of IDUs, 64% reported receptive needle sharing in the past and 18% at least once a month during last six months. None of the IDUs carried HTLV-1 but there was a case of HTLV-2 (prevalence 0.3%; 95% CI 0.1-1.6). All healthy volunteers were HTLV-1 and HTLV-2 PCR negative.

Conclusion: This is the first study investigating the prevalence of HTLV-1/HTLV-2 among high risk population and healthy volunteers in Eastern European region. Our results suggest that despite other widely spread blood-borne infections (e.g. HIV, HBV, HCV) HTLV-1 and HTLV-2 are rare among IDUs in Estonia.

Keywords: Blood-borne infection; Co-infection; HIV; HTLV-1/2.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Coinfection / epidemiology*
  • Estonia
  • Europe, Eastern
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HTLV-I Infections / epidemiology*
  • HTLV-I Infections / virology
  • HTLV-II Infections / epidemiology*
  • HTLV-II Infections / virology
  • Hepatitis B / epidemiology
  • Hepatitis C / epidemiology
  • Human T-lymphotropic virus 1 / genetics
  • Human T-lymphotropic virus 1 / isolation & purification*
  • Human T-lymphotropic virus 2 / genetics
  • Human T-lymphotropic virus 2 / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Needle Sharing / statistics & numerical data
  • Prevalence
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / virology*