Human T-lymphotropic virus 1 (HTLV-1)-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP) is a progressive disease of the CNS that causes weakness or paralysis of the legs, lower back pain and urinary symptoms. HAM/TSP was first described in Jamaica in the nineteenth century, but the aetiology of the condition, infection with the retrovirus HTLV-1, was only identified in the 1980s. HAM/TSP causes chronic disability and, accordingly, imposes a substantial health burden in areas where HTLV-1 infection is endemic. Since the discovery of the cause of HAM/TSP, considerable advances have been made in the understanding of the virology, immunology, cell biology and pathology of HTLV-1 infection and its associated diseases. However, progress has been limited by the lack of accurate animal models of the disease. Moreover, the treatment of HAM/TSP remains highly unsatisfactory: antiretroviral drugs have little impact on the infection and, although potential disease-modifying therapies are widely used, their value is unproved. At present, clinical management is focused on symptomatic treatment and counselling. Here, we summarize current knowledge on the epidemiology, pathogenesis and treatment of HAM/TSP and identify areas in which further research is needed. For an illustrated summary of this Primer, visit: http://go.nature.com/tjZCFM
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The authors thank A. Coler-Reilly, A. Rowan and M. Bangham for comments on the manuscript. C.R.M.B. is a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator and is supported by the Imperial College National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre, the Medical Research Council, and Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research. This work was partially supported by the project “Research on Measures for Intractable Disease” by a matching fund subsidy from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, Japan.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Bangham, C., Araujo, A., Yamano, Y. et al. HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis. Nat Rev Dis Primers 1, 15012 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrdp.2015.12
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