HTLV-1 Proviral Load in Vaginal Fluid Correlates with Levels in Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells

by | May 27, 2023 | Publications

Pathogens. 2023 May 5;12(5):682. doi: 10.3390/pathogens12050682.


BACKGROUND: The prevalence of human T-lymphotropic virus type-1 (HTLV-1) infection is higher in women, and sexual intercourse has been described as an important route of male-to-female transmission. The present study aimed to quantify HTLV-1 proviral load (PVL) in vaginal fluid, and to investigate correlations with PVL in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). In addition, cytopathological alterations and vaginal microbiota were evaluated.

METHODS: HTLV-1-infected women were consecutively recruited at a multidisciplinary center for HTLV patients in Salvador, Brazil. All women underwent gynecological examinations to obtain cervicovaginal fluid and venipuncture for blood collection. PVL, as measured by real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR), was expressed as the number of copies of HTLV-1/106 cells in blood and vaginal fluid samples. Light microscopy was used to assess cervicovaginal cytopathology and vaginal microbiota.

RESULTS: In the 56 included women (43 asymptomatic carriers and 13 diagnosed with HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis-HAM/TSP), mean age was 35.9 (SD ± 7.2) years. PVL was higher in PBMCs (median: 23,264 copies/106 cells; IQR: 6776-60,036) than in vaginal fluid (451.9 copies/106 cells; IQR: 0-2490) (p < 0.0001). PVL in PBMCs was observed to correlate directly with PVL in vaginal fluid (R = 0.37, p = 0.006). PVL was detected in the vaginal fluid of 24 of 43 (55.8%) asymptomatic women compared to 12 of 13 (92.3%) HAM/TSP patients, p = 0.02. Cytopathologic analyses revealed no differences between women with detectable or undetectable PVL.

CONCLUSION: HTLV-1 proviral load is detectable in vaginal fluid and correlates directly with proviral load in peripheral blood. This finding suggests that sexual transmission of HTLV-1 from females to males may occur, as well as vertical transmission, particularly in the context of vaginal delivery.

PMID:37242352 | DOI:10.3390/pathogens12050682

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