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J Neuroimmunol. 1994 Aug;53(1):23-9.

HTLV-I proviral DNA amount correlates with infiltrating CD4+ lymphocytes in the spinal cord from patients with HTLV-I-associated myelopathy.

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Third Department of Internal Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Kagoshima University, Japan.


A quantitative method utilizing polymerase chain reaction was employed to evaluate the amount of human T-cell leukemia virus type I (HTLV-I) proviral DNA in the affected spinal cords from patients with HTLV-I-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP). Central nervous system (CNS) tissues were obtained at post-mortem from five patients with HAM/TSP, who vary in the duration of illness from 2.5-10 years, and one patient with adult T-cell leukemia (ATL), who had leukemic cell infiltration in the CNS. The presence of HTLV-I pX and pol sequences in the CNS tissues were demonstrated in all patients examined. In HAM/TSP, the proviral DNA quantified in the thoracic cord was 0.002-2 copies per 100 tissue cells, and that in the peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) was 2-8 copies per 100 PBMC. The proviral DNA amount in the thoracic cord of the patient with ATL was 0.4 copies per 100 tissue cells. An apparent propensity for the amount of integrated HTLV-I in the thoracic cord to decrease with the disease duration in patients with HAM/TSP was observed. The decline in HTLV-I proviral DNA amount in the thoracic cord lesions was paralleled with the alteration of proportion of CD4+ T lymphocytes in patients with HAM/TSP. These findings suggest that preferential virus reservoir may be infiltrating CD4+ T lymphocytes in the spinal cord lesions of patients with HAM/TSP, and HTLV-I infection in the CNS of patients is declining with the disease duration in spite of the chronic course of neurological manifestations at least in some patients with HAM/TSP.

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