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Virol J. 2012 Jan 3;9:1. doi: 10.1186/1743-422X-9-1.

Antiretroviral activity of 5-azacytidine during treatment of a HTLV-1 positive myelodysplastic syndrome with autoimmune manifestations.

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1st Department of Internal Medicine, Haematology Unit, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Laikon General Hospital, Athens 11527, Greece.


Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are often accompanied by autoimmune phenomena. The underlying mechanisms for these associations remain uncertain, although T cell activation seems to be important. Human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV-1) has been detected in patients with myelodysplastic syndromes, mostly in regions of the world which are endemic for the virus, and where association of HTLV-1 with rheumatological manifestation is not rare. We present here the case of a 58 year old man who presented with cytopenias, leukocytoclastic vasculitis of the skin and glomerulopathy, and was diagnosed as MDS (refractory anemia with excess blasts - RAEB 1). The patient also tested positive for HTLV-1 by PCR. After 8 monthly cycles of 5-azacytidine he achieved a complete hematologic remission. Following treatment, a second PCR for HTLV-1 was carried out and found to be negative. This is the first report in the literature of a HTLV-1-positive MDS with severe autoimmune manifestations, which was treated with the hypomethylating factor 5-azacitidine, achieving cytogenetic remission with concomitant resolution of the autoimmune manifestations, as well as HTLV-1-PCR negativity. HTLV-1-PCR negativity may be due to either immune mediated clearance of the virus, or a potential antiretroviral effect of 5-azacytidine. 5-azacytidine is known for its antiretroviral effects, although there is no proof of its activity against HTLV-1 infection in vivo.

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