J Clin Virol. 2023 Aug 28;167:105578. doi: 10.1016/j.jcv.2023.105578. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: HTLV-1 infection is a neglected disease, despite producing neurological and lymphoproliferative severe illnesses and affect over 10 million people worldwide. Roughly 5% of HTLV-1 carriers develop Adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATLL), one of the most aggressive hematological malignancies.
METHODS: A national HTLV-1 register exists since 1989 in Spain, a non-endemic country with a large migrant flow from Latin America and Equatorial Africa, where HTLV-1 is endemic. The main features of all patients diagnosed with ATLL in Spain up to date are reported.
RESULTS: A total of 451 cases of HTLV-1 infection had been reported in Spain until the end of year 2022. ATLL had been diagnosed in 35 (7.8%). The current average incidence of ATLL in Spain is of two cases per year. Women represent 57% of ATLL patients. Mean age at diagnosis was 47 years-old. Roughly 57% were Latin Americans and 26% Africans. At diagnosis, the majority presented with acute or lymphoma clinical forms. Survival was shorter than one year in most of them. Mean HTLV-1 proviral load was significantly greater in ATLL patients than in asymptomatic HTLV-1 carriers (2,305 vs 104 copies/104 PBMC). HTLV-1 subtyping in 6 ATLL patients found the 1a transcontinental variant (n = 4) and the Japanese variant (n = 2). All ATLL patients were negative for HIV-1, did not develop HTLV-1-associated myelopathy and were not transplant recipients.
CONCLUSION: The rate of ATLL is very low in Spain and mostly associated to migrants from HTLV-1 endemic regions. Given the poor clinical outcome of ATLL, HTLV-1 testing should be performed at least once in all migrants coming from HTLV-1 endemic countries and in natives who have lived in or had sex partners from such regions.