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Review| Volume 3, ISSUE 3, P168-177, March 1999

On the etiology of tropical spastic paraparesis and human T-cell lymphotropic virus I-—Associated myelopathy

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      Abstract

      The purpose of this review is to present some concepts on the etiology of tropical spastic paraparesis or human T-cell lymphotropic virus-I (HTLV-I)-associated myelopathy (TSP/HAM). The large number of syndromes that have been associated with HTLV-I (60 to date), the existence of TSP/HAM cases associated with other retroviruses (human immunodeficiency virus-2 [HIV-2], HTLV-II), the existence of many TSPs without HTLV-I, and the evidence of clear epidemiologic contradictions in TSP/HAM indicate that the etiopathogenesis of TSP/HAM is not yet clear. Tropical spastic paraparesis/HAM affects patients of all human ethnic groups, but usually in well localized and relatively isolated geographic regions where HTLV-I has been endemic for a long time. Environmental factors and geographic locations appear to be critical factors. Because the neuropathology of TSP/HAM suggests a toxometabolic, rather than a viral cause, it is proposed that an intoxication similar to neurolathyrism could account for some of TSP/HAM cases, mainly in tropical and subtropical countries. If this were the case, HTLV-I could be a cofactor or act as a bystander. it is possible that co-infection with another agent is necessary to produce TSP/HAM and most of the syndromes associated with HTLV-I.

      Keywords

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