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Concept: Human T-lymphotropic virus

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Fatality rates of infectious diseases are often higher in men than women. Although this difference is often attributed to a stronger immune response in women, we show that differences in the transmission routes that the sexes provide can result in evolution favouring pathogens with sex-specific virulence. Because women can transmit pathogens during pregnancy, birth or breast-feeding, pathogens adapt, evolving lower virulence in women. This can resolve the long-standing puzzle on progression from Human T-cell Lymphotropic Virus Type 1 (HTLV-1) infection to lethal Adult T-cell Leukaemia (ATL); a progression that is more likely in Japanese men than women, while it is equally likely in Caribbean women and men. We argue that breastfeeding, being more prolonged in Japan than in the Caribbean, may have driven the difference in virulence between the two populations. Our finding signifies the importance of investigating the differences in genetic expression profile of pathogens in males and females.

Concepts: Immune system, Infectious disease, Bacteria, Evolution, Infection, Gender, Human T-lymphotropic virus, Sex

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HTLV-1 infection is endemic among people of Melanesian descent in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. Molecular studies reveal that these Melanesian strains belong to the highly divergent HTLV-1c subtype. In Australia, HTLV-1 is also endemic among the Indigenous people of central Australia; however, the molecular epidemiology of HTLV-1 infection in this population remains poorly documented.

Concepts: Human T-lymphotropic virus, Pacific Ocean, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Melanesia, Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, Oceania

11

The Human T Lymphotropic Virus type 1 (HTLV-1) subtype C is endemic to central Australia where each of the major sequelae of HTLV-1 infection has been documented in the socially disadvantaged Indigenous population. Nevertheless, available epidemiological information relating to HTLV-1c infection is very limited, risk factors for transmission are unknown and no coordinated program has been implemented to reduce transmission among Indigenous Australians. Identifying risk factors for HTLV-1 infection is essential to direct strategies that could control HTLV-1 transmission.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Virus, Human T-lymphotropic virus, Australia, Western Australia, Indigenous Australians, Northern Territory, Central Australia

9

Viruses causing chronic infection artfully manipulate infected cells to enable viral persistence in vivo under the pressure of immunity. Human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1) establishes persistent infection mainly in CD4+ T cells in vivo and induces leukemia in this subset. HTLV-1-encoded Tax is a critical transactivator of viral replication and a potent oncoprotein, but its significance in pathogenesis remains obscure due to its very low level of expression in vivo. Here, we show that Tax is expressed in a minor fraction of leukemic cells at any given time, and importantly, its expression spontaneously switches between on and off states. Live cell imaging revealed that the average duration of one episode of Tax expression is ∼19 hours. Knockdown of Tax rapidly induced apoptosis in most cells, indicating that Tax is critical for maintaining the population, even if its short-term expression is limited to a small subpopulation. Single-cell analysis and computational simulation suggest that transient Tax expression triggers antiapoptotic machinery, and this effect continues even after Tax expression is diminished; this activation of the antiapoptotic machinery is the critical event for maintaining the population. In addition, Tax is induced by various cytotoxic stresses and also promotes HTLV-1 replication. Thus, it seems that Tax protects infected cells from apoptosis and increases the chance of viral transmission at a critical moment. Keeping the expression of Tax minimal but inducible on demand is, therefore, a fundamental strategy of HTLV-1 to promote persistent infection and leukemogenesis.

Concepts: Immune system, Gene expression, Cancer, Virus, Natural killer cell, Human T-lymphotropic virus, Leukemia, Cytotoxic T cell

8

The Human T-Lymphotropic Virus type 1c subtype (HTLV-1c) is highly endemic to central Australia where the most frequent complication of HTLV-1 infection in Indigenous Australians is bronchiectasis. We carried out a prospective study to quantify the prognosis of HTLV-1c infection and chronic lung disease and the risk of death according to the HTLV-1c proviral load (pVL).

Concepts: Epidemiology, Disease, Virus, Human T-lymphotropic virus, Australia, Indigenous Australians, Northern Territory, Central Australia

8

The human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1), identified as the first human oncogenic retrovirus 30 years ago, is not an ubiquitous virus. HTLV-1 is present throughout the world, with clusters of high endemicity located often nearby areas where the virus is nearly absent. The main HTLV-1 highly endemic regions are the Southwestern part of Japan, sub-Saharan Africa and South America, the Caribbean area, and foci in Middle East and Australo-Melanesia. The origin of this puzzling geographical or rather ethnic repartition is probably linked to a founder effect in some groups with the persistence of a high viral transmission rate. Despite different socio-economic and cultural environments, the HTLV-1 prevalence increases gradually with age, especially among women in all highly endemic areas. The three modes of HTLV-1 transmission are mother to child, sexual transmission, and transmission with contaminated blood products. Twenty years ago, de Thé and Bomford estimated the total number of HTLV-1 carriers to be 10-20 millions people. At that time, large regions had not been investigated, few population-based studies were available and the assays used for HTLV-1 serology were not enough specific. Despite the fact that there is still a lot of data lacking in large areas of the world and that most of the HTLV-1 studies concern only blood donors, pregnant women, or different selected patients or high-risk groups, we shall try based on the most recent data, to revisit the world distribution and the estimates of the number of HTLV-1 infected persons. Our best estimates range from 5-10 millions HTLV-1 infected individuals. However, these results were based on only approximately 1.5 billion of individuals originating from known HTLV-1 endemic areas with reliable available epidemiological data. Correct estimates in other highly populated regions, such as China, India, the Maghreb, and East Africa, is currently not possible, thus, the current number of HTLV-1 carriers is very probably much higher.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Virus, Malaria, Africa, North Africa, Human T-lymphotropic virus, Leukemia, Middle East

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Human T lymphotropic virus type I (HTLV-I)-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP) is a chronic myelopathy characterized by motor dysfunction of the lower extremities and urinary disturbance. Immunomodulatory treatments are the main strategy for HAM/TSP, but several issues are associated with long-term treatment. We conducted a clinical trial with prosultiamine (which has apoptotic activity against HTLV-I-infected cells) as a novel therapy in HAM/TSP patients.

Concepts: Medicine, Clinical trial, Virus, Effectiveness, ClinicalTrials.gov, Human T-lymphotropic virus, Tropical spastic paraparesis

6

Prosultiamine, a vitamin B1 derivative, has long been used for beriberi neuropathy and Wernicke’s encephalopathy. Based on the finding that prosultiamine induces apoptosis in human T lymphotropic virus type-I (HTLV-I)-infected T cells, Nakamura et al conducted a clinical trial of prosultiamine in patients with HTLV-I-associated myelopathy (HAM)/tropical spastic paraparesis (TSP). In this open-label, single arm study enrolling 24 HAM/TSP patients recently published in BMC Medicine, oral prosultiamine (300 mg/day for 12 weeks) was found to be effective by neurological, urological and virological evaluations. Notably, it increased detrusor pressure, bladder capacity and maximum flow rate, and improved detrusor overactivity and detrusor-sphincter dyssynergia. A significant decrease in HTLV-I copy numbers in peripheral blood following the treatment provided a rationale for using the drug. The trial has some limitations, such as the small numbers of participants, the open-label design, the lack of a placebo arm, and the short trial period. Nevertheless, the observation that such a safe, cheap drug may have excellent therapeutic effects on HAM/TSP, a chronic devastating illness occurring mainly in developing countries, provides support for future large-scale randomized controlled trials.Please see related research: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/11/182.

Concepts: Medicine, Virus, Vitamin, Human T-lymphotropic virus, Thiamine, Beriberi, Tropical spastic paraparesis, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome

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Zoonotic transmission of simian retroviruses in West-Central Africa occurring in primate hunters has resulted in pandemic spread of human immunodeficiency viruses (HIVs) and human T-lymphotropic viruses (HTLVs). While simian foamy virus (SFV) and simian T- lymphotropic virus (STLV)-like infection were reported in healthy persons exposed to nonhuman primates (NHPs) in West-Central Africa, less is known about the distribution of these viruses in Western Africa and in hospitalized populations. We serologically screened for SFV and STLV infection using 1,529 specimens collected between 1985 and 1997 from Côte d'Ivoire patients with high HIV prevalence. PCR amplification and analysis of SFV, STLV, and HIV/SIV sequences from PBMCs was used to investigate possible simian origin of infection. We confirmed SFV antibodies in three persons (0.2%), two of whom were HIV-1-infected. SFV polymerase (pol) and LTR sequences were detected in PBMC DNA available for one HIV-infected person. Phylogenetic comparisons with new SFV sequences from African guenons showed infection likely originated from a Chlorocebus sabaeus monkey endemic to Côte d'Ivoire. 4.6% of persons were HTLV seropositive and PCR testing of PBMCs from 15 HTLV seroreactive persons identified nine with HTLV-1 and one with HTLV-2 LTR sequences. Phylogenetic analysis showed that two persons had STLV-1-like infections, seven were HTLV-1, and one was an HTLV-2 infection. 310/858 (53%), 8/858 (0.93%), and 18/858 (2.1%) were HIV-1, HIV-2, and HIV-positive but undifferentiated by serology, respectively. No SIV sequences were found in persons with HIV-2 antibodies (n = 1) or with undifferentiated HIV results (n = 7). We document SFV, STLV-1-like, and dual SFV/HIV infection in Côte d'Ivoire expanding the geographic range for zoonotic simian retrovirus transmission to West Africa. These findings highlight the need to define the public health consequences of these infections. Studying dual HIV-1/SFV infections in immunocompromised populations may provide a new opportunity to better understand SFV pathogenicity and transmissibility in humans.

Concepts: HIV, AIDS, Immune system, DNA, Virus, Human T-lymphotropic virus, Primate, Retrovirus