Tropical spastic paraparesis/HTLV-I associated myelopathy. Etiology and clinical spectrum

Mol Neurobiol. Apr-Jun 1994;8(2-3):175-9. doi: 10.1007/BF02780668.


In 1985 we had the first indication that human T-cell lymphotropic virus (HTLV-I) was the possible etiological agent of a chronic myelopathy that seemed to be peculiar to the tropics and that is now known as endemic tropical spastic paraparesis (TSP). IgG antibodies to HTLV-I were found in serum and cerebrospinal fluid of patients from Jamaica, Colombia, Martinique, and shortly after in southern Japan, where the disease is called HTLV-I-associated myelopathy (HAM). The HTLV-I seropositivity was first determined by enzyme-linked immunoassay and confirmed by western immunoblot and in the cerebrospinal fluid specific IgG oligoclonal bands to HTLV-I were found in cerebrospinal fluid and not in serum. These laboratory findings indicated that HTLV-I could be neuropathogenic and for the first time a single etiological agent was identified in patients from different countries. Thus, in less than a decade a century of research and speculation was seemingly resolved when this disease, which was thought to occur only in blacks of poor socioeconomic status in tropical countries, was shown to occur in all ethnic groups of varying socioeconomic status in temperate, subtropical, and tropical climates.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • HTLV-I Infections / pathology
  • HTLV-I Infections / physiopathology*
  • HTLV-I Infections / virology*
  • Human T-lymphotropic virus 1 / isolation & purification
  • Human T-lymphotropic virus 1 / pathogenicity*
  • Humans
  • Melanesia
  • Paraparesis, Tropical Spastic / pathology
  • Paraparesis, Tropical Spastic / physiopathology*
  • Paraparesis, Tropical Spastic / virology*