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International Journal of Virology and AIDS

DOI: 10.23937/2469-567X/1510012

Impact of Human T-Lymphotropic Virus (HTLV I/II) Diagnosis on the Frequency of Mood Disorders in a Non-Endemic Area

Sergio Monteiro de Almeida1,2*, Meri Bordignon Nogueira1, Rafaela Miravalhes1, Thiago Mestre1, Francisco Jaime Barbosa1, Marise Zonta1, Gabriel Santos Schafer1, Indaiara Felisbino1, Suzana Carstensen1, Ana Cristina Medeiros1, Indianara Rotta1,2, Mirian Pelegrino Beltrame1, Sonia Mara Raboni1 and Luine Rosele Vidal1

1Hospital de Clinicas da Universidade Federal do Parana, Brazil
2Faculdades Pequeno Principe & Instituto de Pesquisa Pele Pequeno Principe, Curitiba, Parana, Brazil

*Corresponding author: Sergio Monteiro de Almeida, MD, PhD, Hospital de Clinicas - UFPR, Secao de Virologia, Setor Analises Clinicas, Rua Padre Camargo, 280 Curitiba - PR - Brasil, Tel: 55-41-3360-7974; E-mail:
Int J Virol AIDS, IJVA-2-012, (Volume 2, Issue 2), Research Article; ISSN: 2469-567X
Received: August 28, 2015 | Accepted: October 16, 2015 | Published: October 22, 2015
Citation: de Almeida SM, Nogueira MB, Miravalhes R, Mestre T, Barbosa FJ, et al. (2015) Impact of Human T-Lymphotropic Virus (HTLV I/II) Diagnosis on the Frequency of Mood Disorders in a Non-Endemic Area. Int J Virol AIDS 2:012. 10.23937/2469-567X/1510012
Copyright: © 2015 de Almeida, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Chronic diseases cause different impact to different people. We performed this study to evaluate the impact of human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV I/II) diagnosis on the frequency of mood disorders. Of six HTLV I/II infected patients, including one asymptomatic, four reported depression at the moment of HTLV diagnosis. The findings reveal that it is crucial to inform patients of the HTLV diagnosis only after conducting confirmatory tests, as indicated by majority of diagnosis protocols. Usually countries with limited resources and a high prevalence of HTLV I/II infections do not perform confirmatory tests, including Brazil. Psychiatric manifestations and major depression in patients with HTLV I/II need further study. Although a small series, the findings reveal that it is crucial to inform patients of the diagnosis only after conducting confirmatory tests as indicated by majority of diagnosis protocols. Usually countries with limited resources and a high prevalence of HTLV I/II infections do not perform confirmatory tests. The authors reinforce the importance of the handling of the emotional response of the patience to the diagnosis.


HAM/TSP, HTLV, Mood disorders, depression, diagnosis


Chronic diseases cause different impact to different people. When someone is diagnosed with a certain disease, the experience becomes personal, which determines the emotional response. Sexually transmitted diseases like retroviral infections (human T-lymphotropic virus [HTLV] and human immunodeficiency virus [HIV]) attract greater prejudice. The most important neurologic disease caused by HTLVI/II is HTLV-I-Associated Myelopathy/Tropical Spastic Paraparesis (HAM/TSP). It is essential to study the impact of HTLV I/II diagnosis on people's lives. Blood banks should conduct serological HTLV I/II screening tests for all donors. If positive, the donors are referred to a health service center for confirmatory diagnostic tests like enzyme-linked (Elisa), Quimioluminescence (QMIA) or western blot analysis [1]. The infection diagnosis is very stressful for the patient, the patient is informed of the likelihood of serious disease (HAM/TSP or Adult T lymphotropic leukemia). Another aggravating issue is when the viral pathology cannot be ascertained by health professionals and is not common in other patients [2]. The northeast and southeast regions of Brazil are highly endemic for HTLVI/II, although southern Brazil is non-endemic [3]. This report aimed to evaluate the impact of HTLV-I/II diagnosis in causing mood disorders in a non-endemic area. The ratio of asymptomatic HTLV-I carriers to patients with symptomatic HAM/TSP is approximately 2,000-3,000:1 [4].

Materials and Methods

Six patients, five with HAM/TSP and one asymptomatic HTLV-I infected participant from the neuroinfection outpatient clinic of HC-UFPR, Parana, Brazil were evaluated by a multiprofessional group. All patients underwent psychiatric evaluation with the Brazilian version of a structured interview (MINI Plus); beck depression inventory (BDI) and beck anxiety inventory (BAI). Functional independence measure (FIM) scale was conducted by trained professionals, FIM Total scores range from 18 (totally dependent) to 126 (totally independent). Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and blood samples were collected for QMIA (ARCHITECT rHTLV-I/II, Abbott®) and confirmatory Western Blot (INNO-LIA™ HTLV-I/II Score, INNOGENETICS®). Flow cytometry of CSF and blood (FACSCALIBUR BD®, 4 colors, limit of detection 0.1%) was performed for CD4 and CD8 quantification.


Six patients with HTLV infection, confirmed by Western blot, were evaluated in depth demographic; CSF and immunological characteristics of participants with HAM/TSP and asymptomatic are listed on in Table 1 and Table 2 respectively. Among the patients with HAM/TSP (mean ± SD): age 54 ± 18 (years); time of diagnosis (years) 7.6 ± 9.3; time of symptoms (years) 16.8 ± 6.3 FIM scale 98.6 ± 30.3. There was decrease of the CD4/CD8 ratio in blood in only one participant with HAM/TSP on the others the ratio was normal. Two participants with HAM/TSP showed low increase of CSF WBC with predominance of lymphocytes. CD4/CD8 ratio in CSF follows the blood.

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Table 1: Demographics characteristics of participants with HAM/TSP and HTLV asymptomatic. View Table 1

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Table 2: Motor evaluation and Psychiatric aspects of participants with HAM/TSP and HTLV asymptomatic. View Table 2

Among participants with HAM/TSP and asymptomatic BDI 11 ± 5.5; BAI 12 ± 5.5. In four of six participants there was relationship between mood disorder episode and HTLV diagnosis. Three of six HTLVI/II infected patients, including one asymptomatic patient, reported depression during HTLV diagnosis and a fear of paralysis (Table 3). All participants were diagnosed with HTLV with a follow-up confirmatory test. In this series, the most significant mood change episode directly coincided with the diagnosis time and not with the development of motor symptoms during the onset.

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Table 3: Blood and serum immunologic characteristics of participants with HAM/TSP and HTLV asymptomatic. View Table 3

One patient attempted suicide, and disease diagnosis and the possibility of paraplegia were reported to be the main causes. Based on the data obtained from FIM, all HAM/TSP patients who participated in the study had some urinary dysfunction, which contributed to their poor quality of life.

Demographics characteristics and clinical aspects of participants with HAM/TSP and asymptomatic are listed on table 1.


The perception that HTLV infection and diagnosis is a stigmatized disease with heavy prejudice attached to it, beyond the physical and social limitations imposed by the HAM/TSP is responsible for the highest frequency of somatic symptoms and mood disorders, which potentiates the severity of the disease [5,6].

Depression has a great impact on the quality of life of patients. In chronic conditions, the emotional, familial, social, physical and functional aspects, among others, are influenced by the type, severity, and duration of illness. The mechanisms of adaptation established by the patient and its family shall determine the patient's perception of quality of life. The development of a chronic disease changes the way an individual perceives and modifies its social and economic life and its plans for the future. In general, the perception of well-being of an individual suffering from a chronic illness is more influenced by mechanisms of self-evaluation of what it means to be sick. HTLV is a sexually transmitted infection which is accompanied by prejudice; usually HTLV is confused with HIV by the patient and even by the primary physician what increases the prejudice. This study was performed in a non-endemic area in southern Brazil [7], which increases the poor knowledge about HTLV infection among the health professionals and the general population.

HTLV is a member of the Retroviridae family as the HIV; although HTLV belongs to the subfamily Oncovirinae and HIV to Lentivirinae. As all retrovirus HTLV has high neurotropism and neurovirulence.

Major depression is a frequent complication in HIV infection, the frequency of depression in HIV- infected Brazilians varies from 21% to 37% across a broad range of HIV+ cohorts including patients on antiretroviral therapy (ART) and those who were ART-naive [8-10]. The mechanism of neuronal lesion is indirect, as neurons are not infected by HIV due to the lack of CD4 receptors environment. There is a strong suggestion that cytokines and chemokines have a role in the biology of depression. Some of these immunological factors are described when depression is associated with infectious diseases such as hepatitis C virus and HIV [11-13].

HTLV patients seem to have less frequency of mood disorders than HIV, although this aspect of HTLV infection needs to be more studied. In this series of patients, there was a direct relationship between the presence of the mood disorder episode and the time of HTLV diagnosis in the past. We can conclude that the notice of the diagnosis could have triggered the mood episodes, probably the explanation of this mood disorder could be better explained by fear and misunderstanding of the infection and impact of prejudice than to be related with an immuno-inflammatory or monoaminergic pathways but this needs to be more investigated. None patient, in this series, have diagnosis of major depression in the moment of the interview.

The main limitation of this study is the small number of participants, although the results can leads to some conclusions: psychiatric manifestations and major depression in patients with HTLV I/II need further study. Usually countries with limited resources and a high prevalence of HTLV I/II infections do not perform confirmatory tests. Although a small series, the findings reveal that it is crucial to inform patients of the diagnosis only after conducting confirmatory tests as indicated by majority of diagnosis protocols.


This study was sponsored by the Ministry of Health, Brazil/ United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Ethical Statement

This study was approved by the HC-UFPR IRB and all the participants signed a consent form agreeing to enter the study.

  1. Brazil, Health's Ministry (1998) HTLV-I/II - Triagem e diagnostico sorologico em unidades hemoterapicas e laboratorios de saude publica. - Brasilia: Ministerio da Saude, Coordenacao Nacional de Doencas Sexualmente Transmissiveis e Aids. 54.

  2. Orge G, Travassos MJ, Bonfim T (2009) Living with HTLV-I. Gaz Medic da Bahia 79: 68-72.

  3. Proietti FA, Carneiro-Proietti AB, Catalan-Soares BC, Murphy EL (2005) Global epidemiology of HTLV-I infection and associated diseases. Oncogene 24: 6058-6068.

  4. Vernant JC, Maurs L, Gessain A, Barin F, Gout O, et al. (1987) Endemic tropical spastic paraparesis associated with human T-lymphotropic virus type I: a clinical and seroepidemiological study of 25 cases. Ann Neurol 21: 123-130.

  5. Carvalho A, Galvao-Phileto AV, Lima NS, Jesus RS, Galvao-Castro B, et al. (2009) Frequency of mental disturbances in HTLV-1 patients in the state of Bahia, Brazil. Braz J Infect Dis 13: 5-8.

  6. Souza ARM, Thuler LCS, Ramon J, Lopez RA, Puccioni-Sohler M (2009) Prevalence of major depression and symptoms of depression in patients with HTLV-1 infection. J Bras Doencas Sex Trans 21: 163-165.

  7. Araujo AQ, Andrade-Filho AS, Castro-Costa CM, Menna-Barreto M, Almeida SM (1998) HTLV-I-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis in Brazil: a nationwide survey. HAM/TSP Brazilian Study Group. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr Hum Retrovirol 19: 536-541.

  8. Anastos K, Gange SJ, Lau B, Weiser B, Detels R, et al. (2000) Association of race and gender with HIV-1 RNA levels and immunologic progression. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr 24: 218-226.

  9. Mello VA, Segurado AA, Malbergier A (2010) Depression in women living with HIV: clinical and psychosocial correlates. Arch Womens Ment Health 13: 193-199.

  10. Silveira, Guttier MC, Pinheiro CAT, Pereira TVS, Cruzeiro ALS, et al. (2012) Depressive symptoms in HIV-infected patients treated with highly active antiretroviral therapy. Revista Brasileira de Psiquiatria 34: 162-167

  11. Loftis JM, Huckans M, Ruimy S, Hinrichs DJ, Hauser P (2008) Depressive symptoms in patients with chronic hepatitis C are correlated with elevated plasma levels of interleukin-1beta and tumor necrosis factor-alpha. Neurosci Lett 430: 264-268.

  12. Atkinson JH, Heaton RK, Patterson TL, Wolfson T, Deutsch R, et al. (2008) Two-year prospective study of major depressive disorder in HIV-infected men. J Affect Disord 108: 225-234.

  13. Del Guerra FB, Fonseca JL, Figueiredo VM, Ziff EB, Konkiewitz EC (2013) Human immunodeficiency virus-associated depression: contributions of immuno-inflammatory, monoaminergic, neurodegenerative, and neurotrophic pathways. J Neurovirol 19: 314-327.

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