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Blood. 2010 Aug 26;116(8):1211-9. doi: 10.1182/blood-2009-12-257410. Epub 2010 May 6.

Human T-cell leukemia virus type I (HTLV-1) proviral load and disease progression in asymptomatic HTLV-1 carriers: a nationwide prospective study in Japan.

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  • 1Department of Hematology and Molecular Medicine, Atomic Bomb Disease Institute, Nagasaki University Graduate School of Biomedical Science, Nagasaki, Japan.


Definitive risk factors for the development of adult T-cell leukemia (ATL) among asymptomatic human T-cell leukemia virus type I (HTLV-1) carriers remain unclear. Recently, HTLV-1 proviral loads have been evaluated as important predictors of ATL, but a few small prospective studies have been conducted. We prospectively evaluated 1218 asymptomatic HTLV-1 carriers (426 males and 792 females) who were enrolled during 2002 to 2008. The proviral load at enrollment was significantly higher in males than females (median, 2.10 vs 1.39 copies/100 peripheral blood mononuclear cells [PBMCs]; P < .001), in those 40 to 49 and 50 to 59 years of age than that of those 40 years of age and younger (P = .02 and .007, respectively), and in those with a family history of ATL than those without the history (median, 2.32 vs 1.33 copies/100 PBMCs; P = .005). During follow-up, 14 participants progressed to overt ATL. Their baseline proviral load was high (range, 4.17-28.58 copies/100 PBMCs). None developed ATL among those with a baseline proviral load lower than approximately 4 copies. Multivariate Cox analyses indicated that not only a higher proviral load, advanced age, family history of ATL, and first opportunity for HTLV-1 testing during treatment for other diseases were independent risk factors for progression of ATL.

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