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J Neurovirol. 2003 Feb;9(1):29-35.

Usefulness of proviral load measurement for monitoring of disease activity in individual patients with human T-lymphotropic virus type I-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis.

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Division of Molecular Pathology and Genetic Epidemiology, Center for Chronic Viral Diseases, Faculty of Medicine, Kagoshima University, Japan.


High human T-lymphotropic virus type I (HTLV-I) proviral load in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) has been reported in patients with HTLV-I-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP) and the proviral load has been reported to fluctuate in individual patients during the course of the disease. Clinical symptoms usually became stable after a prolonged period of symptom progression. However, the authors have experienced having some patients whose clinical manifestations suddenly became worse during the course of the disease. To clarify the role of high proviral load and its fluctuation in the pathogenesis of HAM/TSP, the authors measured the proviral load of serially taken PBMCs as well as of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) cells from patients with HAM/TSP on long-term follow-up and compared these with their clinical manifestations. There was a wide distribution of proviral load, from 0.3 to 37.8 copies/100 PBMCs; however, the proviral load in individual patients was relatively stable during the course of the disease. Eighty-three percent of the patients with clinical worsening showed an increase in proviral load at the time point when clinical worsening was recorded, or at the preceding time point. The proviral loads in CSF cells were higher than those in PBMCs in individual patients. The ratio of proviral loads in CSF cells/in PBMCs, but not the absolute load, in either compartment, was significantly associated with clinically progressive disease and with recent onset of HAM/TSP. These findings indicate that clinical progression of HAM/TSP is associated with increased proliferation or immigration of HTLV-I-infected lymphocytes in the central nervous system.

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