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Infect Genet Evol. 2016 Sep;43:83-5. doi: 10.1016/j.meegid.2016.05.022. Epub 2016 May 17.

Human T-lymphotropic virus types 1 and 2 are rare among intravenous drug users in Eastern Europe.

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Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia(1). Electronic address:
Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia(1).
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, USA.
Institute of Family Medicine and Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia.



In Europe, human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV) type 2 mainly occurs among intravenous drug users (IDUs) with prevalence up to 15% and HTLV-1 among general population with prevalence <1%. However, there is no data regarding the prevalence of HTLV-1 or HTLV-2 in Eastern European IDUs population where HIV prevalence is relatively high. We aimed to determine the prevalence and genotypes of HTLV-1/HTLV-2 among IDUs and healthy volunteers in Estonia.


The study included 345 IDUs and 138 healthy volunteers. The presence of HTLV-1/HTLV-2 was determined by nested PCR; positive and negative controls were used in every PCR run.


The analysed IDUs resembled the IDUs of HIV epidemic in Estonia: mainly male (79%) with median age of 30years (interquartile range [IQR] 25-34), and prolonged duration of intravenous drug usage (11years; IQR 7-14). The prevalence exposure to blood-borne viral infections was high - 50% were HIV positive, 88% hepatitis C positive, 67% hepatitis B positive. Of IDUs, 64% reported receptive needle sharing in the past and 18% at least once a month during last six months. None of the IDUs carried HTLV-1 but there was a case of HTLV-2 (prevalence 0.3%; 95% CI 0.1-1.6). All healthy volunteers were HTLV-1 and HTLV-2 PCR negative.


This is the first study investigating the prevalence of HTLV-1/HTLV-2 among high risk population and healthy volunteers in Eastern European region. Our results suggest that despite other widely spread blood-borne infections (e.g. HIV, HBV, HCV) HTLV-1 and HTLV-2 are rare among IDUs in Estonia.


Blood-borne infection; Co-infection; HIV; HTLV-1/2

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