Other Inflammatory Conditions

It has been known since the 1980s that HTLV-1 virus can cause inflammation not only in the spinal cord but almost in any organ. The following are some inflammatory conditions seen in people infected with HTLV-1.


Uveitis - In general terms this means inflammation of the mid compartment of the eye ball called the uvea. The symptoms include redness of the eye, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, dark, floating spots in the visual field and eye pain. The condition needs to be treated promptly to avoid serious complications and this usually involves the use of steroid eye drops.


Arthritis - inflammation of one or more joints which results in pain, swelling and restricted movement. Although cases of HTLV-1 associated arthritis have been reported, very little is still known about the role of HTLV-1 in development of arthritis and more clinical and laboratory research is needed to establish the full picture of the condition. Arthritis is normally treated with anti-inflammatory drugs.


Alveolitis - inflammation of the alveoli (the tiny air sacs of the lungs). In alveolitis and HTLV-1 white blood cells of immune system cause inflammation in the lung which results in shortness of breath, dry cough, tiredness and increased risk of development of chest infections.


The following tests are usually required to diagnose HTLV-1 associated alveolitis: blood test to confirm HTLV-I infection, chest x-ray or CT scan of the lungs, lung function tests, sometimes sampling of the cells in the airways and alveoli (known as a bronchoalveolar lavage) or a lung biopsy.


There is no specific treatment for HTLV-I associated alveolitis - the condition is normally treated with steroids or other medicines which reduce inflammation.


Polymyositis - "poly" means many and "myositis" means inflammation of a muscle. The inflammation causes a varying degree of muscle weakness and pain.


It is thought to be caused by direct effect of cytokines (proteins released in response to inflammation) and viral proteins in muscle inflammation. To confirm the diagnosis muscle biopsies are usually performed. The condition is usually treated with steroids or other immunosuppressants (medicines which inflammation).


Infective dermatitis - chronic, infected eczema in HTLV-1 infected children and adolescents with features of erythematous, scaly lesions with mild itching. Most cases have been reported in the Caribbean and South America. Diagnosis is confirmed by a positive HTLV-1 antibody test and a biopsy of the skin lesion. Treatment usually involves prolonged antibiotic therapy.

The National Centre for Human Retrovirology Clinic  Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, Ground Floor, Winston Churchill Wing, St Mary's Hospital, Praed Street, London W2 1NY