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Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Infectious Diseases
Volume 2010, Article ID 478461, 8 pages
Review Article

Immunogenetics and the Pathological Mechanisms of Human T-Cell Leukemia Virus Type 1- (HTLV-1-)Associated Myelopathy/Tropical Spastic Paraparesis (HAM/TSP)

Department of Immunology, Graduate School of Medicine, University of the Ryukyus, Uehara 207, Nishihara-cho, Nakagami-gun, Okinawa 903-0215, Japan

Received 8 October 2009; Accepted 4 January 2010

Academic Editor: Marylou V. Solbrig

Copyright © 2010 Mineki Saito. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1) is a replication-competent human retrovirus associated with two distinct types of disease only in a minority of infected individuals: the malignancy known as adult T-cell leukemia (ATL) and a chronic inflammatory central nervous system disease HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP). Although the factors that cause these different manifestations of HTLV-1 infection are not fully understood, accumulating evidence suggests that complex virus-host interactions play an important role in determining the risk of HAM/TSP. This review focuses on the role of the immune response in controlling or limiting viral persistence in HAM/TSP patients, and the reason why some HTLV-1-infected people develop HAM/TSP whereas the majority remains asymptomatic carriers of the virus.