Handb Clin Neurol. 2023;196:149-156. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-323-98817-9.00026-0.
A large number of causative agents can result in spinal cord disorders in the tropics including etiologies similar to those of temperate regions such as trauma, spinal bone and disc lesions, tumors, epidural abscess, and congenital malformations. Yet infectious and nutritional disorders differ in their higher prevalence in tropical regions including Pott’s disease; brucellosis; neuroborreliosis; various parasitic diseases such as schistosomiasis, neurocysticercosis, and eosinophilic meningitis. Notably, the retrovirus HTLV-1 is the causeof tropical spastic paraparesis/paraplegia or TSP. Nutritional causes of TSP include vitamin B and folate deficiencies, while endemic clusters of konzo and tropical ataxic myeloneuropathy occur in Africa, along with malnutrition and excessive consumption of cyanide-containing bitter cassava. Other toxic etiologies of TSP include lathyrism and fluorosis. Nutritional forms of myelopathy are associated often with optic and sensory neuropathy, hence the name tropical myeloneuropathies. Acute transverse myelopathy, seen in association with vaccination, infections, and fibrocartilaginous embolism of the nucleus pulposus, can be ubiquitous. Multiple sclerosis and optic myelopathy occur in the tropics but with lesser prevalence than in temperate regions. The advent of modern imaging in the tropics, including computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging, has allowed better diagnosis and treatment of these conditions that are a frequent cause of death and disability. This chapter provides an overview of TSP emphasizing the most common causes with clues to diagnosis and effective therapy.