Myelopathy secondary to human T-lymphotropic virus and Treponema pallidum infection: case report

Spinal Cord Ser Cases. 2019 Nov 6;5(1):93. doi: 10.1038/s41394-019-0238-0.


Introduction: The human T-lymphotropic virus has been associated with human disease, affecting CD4+ T, CD8+ T, and B lymphocytes. It can cause T-cell leukemia/lymphoma and HTLV-associated myelopathy.

Case presentation: A 31-year-old woman was admitted after 2 months of cramps, paraparesis, and fecal/urinary incontinence. She was diagnosed with neurosyphilis according to the cerebrospinal fluid analysis. Despite treatment with crystalline penicillin there was no recovery, and anti-HTLV-1/2 tests were positive; therefore, the diagnosis of HTLV-associated myelopathy was made. The patient rejected glucocorticoid treatment; baclofen and carbamazepine were used to treat spasticity and cramps, respectively. The patient has not had progression.

Discussion: HTLV-associated myelopathy is generated by an exaggerated inflammatory response in the central nervous system with clonal expansion of CD4+ T and CD8+ T lymphocytes. There is not a specific and useful treatment; glucocorticoids can reduce inflammation, but do not improve clinical functional outcomes. There is a high prevalence of syphilis and human T-lymphotropic virus co-infection in tropical countries; however, myelopathy as the first clinical manifestation is unusual. The treatment of neurosyphilis could reduce the inflammation into the central nervous system and could decrease the progression of sequelae. This is the first case of myelopathy secondary to viral and treponemal co-infection confirmed in Colombia.