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Original Contribution
November 2006

Natural History of Human T-Lymphotropic Virus 1–Associated Myelopathy: A 14-Year Follow-up Study

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Departments of Neurology (Drs Olindo, Cabre, Saint-Vil, Signate, Bonnan, and Smadja), Viro-Immunology (Drs Lézin, Chalon, and Cesaire), Ophthalmology (Dr Merle), and Statistics (Dr Magnani), University Hospital of Fort de France, Fort de France, Martinique.

Arch Neurol. 2006;63(11):1560-1566. doi:10.1001/archneur.63.11.1560

Background  The progression of neurological disability in human T-lymphotropic virus 1 (HTLV-1)–associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP) remains undefined.

Objectives  To determine the time course of disability scores and to identify predictors of outcome among patients with HAM/TSP.

Design  Clinical 14-year follow-up study.

Setting  University hospital.

Patients  One hundred twenty-three patients with HAM/TSP.

Main Outcome Measures  We determined time from onset to the following 4 Kurtzke Disability Status Scale (DSS) end points: scores of 6 (unilateral aid required), 6.5 (bilateral aid required), 8 (wheelchair confinement), and 10 (death related to the disease). Times to reach selected DSS scores were estimated using the Kaplan-Meier method. Univariate and multivariate analyses identified variables related to the rate of progression to DSS 8. The HTLV-1 proviral loads were also assessed.

Results  The disability of the cohort progressed throughout the follow-up period. The median times from onset to DSS 6, 6.5, and 8 were 6, 13, and 21 years, respectively. The median time from DSS 6 to DSS 8 was 8 years; DSS 10 was reached by one fourth of the patients within 20 years. Age at onset of 50 years or older and high HTLV-1 proviral load were associated with a shorter time to DSS 8 (P = .01 and P = .02, respectively). A shorter time to DSS 6 significantly adversely affected the time to progression from DSS 6 to DSS 8.

Conclusions  Human T-lymphotropic virus 1–associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis is a rapidly disabling disease. Monitoring for HTLV-1 proviral load is recommended in future therapeutic trials.