Using in situ hybridization, the presence of T-cell lymphotrophic virus type I (HTLV-I) was shown in blood lymphocytes of one tropical spastic paraparesis (TSP/HAM) patient and in two asymptomatic carriers. HTLV-I was also detected in epithelial cells derived from mouthwash of the TSP/HAM patient. Mouthwash of one of the carriers showed an infected lymphocyte while mouthwash of the other carrier was negative. The infected epithelial cells stained both in the nucleus and in the cytoplasm, which indicated the presence of the virus in both subcellular compartments. Our observations suggest that saliva cells, lymphocytes and epithelial cells, may potentially participate in oral transmission of HTLV-I.