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J Med Virol. 2012 Feb;84(2):327-35. doi: 10.1002/jmv.23181.

Current prevalence of HTLV-1 in Japan as determined by screening of blood donors.

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Central Blood Institute, Japanese Red Cross, Tokyo, Japan.


Human T-cell leukemia virus type-1 (HTLV-1), a major source of adult T-cell leukemia and related diseases, is endemic to southwestern Japan. Mother-to-infant transmission via breast milk is an important route of infection, and establishing programs to prevent such transmission requires exact figures on the HTLV-1 prevalence rate and the number of carriers. Therefore, the seroprevalence of HTLV-1 among 1,196,321 Japanese first-time blood donors from 2006 to 2007 was investigated. A total of 3,787 of such donors were confirmed to be positive for anti-HTLV-1 antibody. By applying a fitness curve to the age ranges outside the blood donor age range, the present number of HTLV-1 carriers covering ages from 0 to 99 years was estimated to be at least 1.08 million in Japan; this value was 10% lower than that reported in 1988. The adjusted overall prevalence rates were estimated to be 0.66% and 1.02% in men and women, respectively. The peak in carrier numbers was found among individuals in their 70s, which is a shift from the previous peak observed in the 1988 database among individuals in their 50s. Carriers were distributed not only in the endemic southwestern region of Japan, but throughout the country, particularly in the greater Tokyo metropolitan area. By applying population projections, it was calculated that the carrier number will decrease by half in the next two decades; however, the carrier population will age over that interval, meaning that the age of patients with adult T-cell leukemia will also be higher.

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