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Higher Human T Lymphotropic Virus (HTLV) Provirus Load Is Associated with HTLV-I versus HTLV-II, with HTLV-II Subtype A versus B, and with Male Sex and a History of Blood Transfusion

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High human T lymphotropic virus (HTLV)-I provirus load (VL) has been associated with an increased risk of HTLV-associated myelopathy, but little is known about variation in HTLV-I or -II VLs by demographic characteristics and risk behaviors.


We measured HTLV-I and HTLV-II VLs in a large cohort of 127 HTLV-I-seropositive and 328 HTLV-II-seropositive former blood donors, by use of real-time polymerase chain reaction using tax primers. Multivariable linear regression was used to control for confounding by relevant covariates.


The mean VLs were 3.28 log(10) copies/10(6) peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) (range, 0.5-5.3 log(10) copies/10(6) PBMCs) for HTLV-I and 2.60 log(10) copies/10(6) PBMCs (range, 0.05-5.95 log(10) copies/10(6) PBMCs) for HTLV-II (P<.0001). HTLV-II VLs were higher in those subjects with subtype A infection (mean, 2.82 log(10) copies/10(6) PBMCs) than in those with subtype B infection (mean, 2.29 log(10) copies/10(6) PBMCs) (P=.005). Higher HTLV-I VL was associated with previous receipt of a blood transfusion (P=.04), and lower HTLV-II VL was associated with female sex (P=.007). These associations persisted in virus-specific multivariate linear regression models controlling for potential confounding variables.


VL was significantly higher in HTLV-I than in HTLV-II infection and was higher in HTLV-II subtype A than in HTLV-II subtype B infection. Chronic HTLV VLs may be related to the infectious dose acquired at the time of infection, with higher VLs following acquisition by blood transfusion and lower VLs following sexual acquisition.

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