Objective: To estimate the prevalence of HTLV infection among pregnant women in Spain.
Methods: A commercial ELISA incorporating HTLV-I and HTLV-II antigens was used for HTLV antibody screening. Repeatedly reactive samples were further examined by western blot. Moreover, confirmation with PCR was performed when cells were available.
Results: 20 366 pregnant women in 12 different Spanish cities were tested in a 3 year period (July 1996 to August 1999). 32 samples were repeatedly reactive by ELISA, and 10 of them were confirmed as positive by western blot (eight for HTLV-II and two for HTLV-I). In addition, three of 13 women who had an indeterminate western blot pattern yielded positive results for HTLV-II by PCR. All 11 HTLV-II infected women had been born in Spain, and all but one were former drug users. Seven of them were coinfected with HIV-1. One HTLV-I infected woman was from Peru, where HTLV is endemic and where she most probably was infected during sexual intercourse.
Conclusion: The overall prevalence of HTLV infection among pregnant women in Spain is 0.064% (13/20 366), and HTLV-II instead of HTLV-I is the most commonly found variant. A strong relation was found among HTLV-II infection and specific epidemiological features, such as Spanish nationality and injecting drug use. Although HTLV-II can be vertically transmitted, mainly through breast feeding, both the low prevalence of infection and its lack of pathogenicity would not support the introduction of HTLV antenatal screening in Spain.
- pregnant women
- adult T cell leukaemia/lymphoma
- tropical spastic paraparesis
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