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Increased All-Cause and Cancer Mortality in HTLV-II Infection

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Human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV)-I and HTLV-II cause chronic human retroviral infections, but few studies have examined the impact of either virus on survival among otherwise healthy individuals. The authors analyzed all-cause and cancer mortality in a prospective cohort of 155 HTLV-I, 387 HTLV-II, and 799 seronegative subjects.


Vital status was ascertained using death certificates, the US Social Security Death Index or family report, and causes of death were grouped into 9 categories. Hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated using Cox proportional hazards models.


After a median follow-up of 15.9 years, there were 105 deaths: 22 HTLV-I, 41 HTLV-II, and 42 HTLV-seronegative. Cancer was the predominant cause of death, resulting in 8 HTLV-I, 17 HTLV-II, and 15 HTLV-seronegative deaths. After adjustment for confounding, HTLV-I status was not significantly associated with increased all-cause mortality, though there was a positive trend (HR: 1.6, 95% CI: 0.8 to 3.1). HTLV-II status was strongly associated with increased all-cause (HR: 2.4, 95% CI: 1.4 to 4.4) and cancer mortality (HR: 3.8, 95% CI: 1.6 to 9.2).


The observed associations of HTLV-II with all-cause and cancer mortality could reflect biological effects of HTLV-II infection, residual confounding by socioeconomic status or other factors, or differential access to health care and cancer screening.

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