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Prevalence of HTLV infection in pregnant women in Spain
  1. Ana Machuca1,
  2. Concepción Tuset2,
  3. Vincent Soriano1,
  4. Estrella Caballero3,
  5. Antonio Aguilera4,
  6. Raul Ortiz de Lejarazu5,
  7. The Htlv Spanish Study Group
  1. 1Service of Infectious Diseases, Hospital Carlos III, Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Madrid, Spain
  2. 2Hospital General Universitario, Valencia
  3. 3Hospital Vall d'Hebron, Barcelona
  4. 4Hospital Xeral, Santiago
  5. 5Hospital Clínico Universitario, Valladolid
  1. Dr Vincent Soriano, C/ Rafael Calvo 7, 2° A 28010-Madrid, Spain vsoriano{at}


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.

  • HTLV
  • pregnant women
  • adult T cell leukaemia/lymphoma
  • tropical spastic paraparesis
  • epidemiology

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