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Am J Hematol. 1999 Jun;61(2):94-7.

Is it necessary to test patients with immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) for seropositivity to HTLV-1?

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, New York/ Cornell University Medical College, New York 10021, USA.


HTLV-111 (HIV-1) has been shown to be associated with thrombocytopenia of a type resembling immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP). HTLV-1 is a retrovirus similar to HIV-I (HTLV-III) in a number of features, such as CD4 tropism. It is responsible for several clinical entities, including adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma. The relationship, if any, of HTLV-1 and thrombocytopenia has not been systematically studied. To determine how frequently ITP patients are commonly infected with HTLV-1, the following study was performed. Frozen serum samples from 123 randomly selected patients with ITP were thawed and tested for antibodies to HTLV-1 by enzyme-linked immunoabsorbent assay. Positives were confirmed by Western blot. Three patients were initially found to be positive for HTLV-1. One was a female of Caribbean ancestry, one was a male HIV-1+ patient, and one was an adolescent female with no known risk factors for HIV-1. The two females later tested negative for HTLV-1. As a screening program for HTLV-1 antibodies was not introduced into blood banks until November 1988, there may have been passive transfer of the virus from intravenous immunoglobulin that these patients had received. This study of a large number of ITP patients shows that it is extremely unlikely that they are infected with HTLV-1, and, therefore, it is unnecessary to screen ITP patients for seropositivity to HTLV-1.

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