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Int J Psychiatry Med. 2008;38(3):345-55.

Higher rate of major depression among blood donor candidates infected with human t-cell lymphotropic virus type 1.

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Institute of Social Security of the Civil Servants of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Brazil.



Viral infections have been previously associated with psychiatric disorders. This work aimed to study the relationship between the human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) and depression.


A case-control study with prevalent cases was conducted from April 2004 to June 2005. Participants were from a public transfusion center in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. The base population was composed of blood donor candidates infected with HTLV-1 (asymptomatic carriers), followed-up in a cohort study. As a control group, HTLV-1 seronegative blood donors were selected in a random fashion. Study participants underwent psychiatric evaluation using a structured diagnostic instrument, the Mini International Neuropsychiatry Interview (MINI), to estimate the rate of depression. The interviewer was unaware of participants' HTLV-1 serostatus. The co-variables studied were gender, age, formal education, personal income, and the presence of other psychiatric diagnoses. Logistic regression was used to examine the relation between HTLV-1 infection and depression.


The final sample was composed of 74 individuals infected with HTLV-1 and 24 uninfected controls. The rate of depression was significantly higher in HTLV-1 carriers when compared with controls (39% vs. 8%; p-value = 0.005). HTLV-1 infection was independently associated with depression (OR = 6.17; CI 95% = 1.32-28.82).


The results showed a higher rate of depression in HTLV-1 infected individuals. It was not possible to determine whether depression was related to knowledge of chronic retroviral infection or related to a biological effect of the retroviral infection.

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