HTLV

Share this page:
Looking for your tests results? Looking for reference ranges?
Also known as: Human T-cell Lymphotropic Virus; HTLV-I/II Antibodies; HTLV-I/II by PCR
Formal name: Human T-Lymphotropic Virus Types I/II Antibodies; Human T-cell Lymphotropic Virus Types I/II by PCR

At a Glance

Why Get Tested?

To detect a human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV) infection; to help diagnose the cause of adult T-cell leukemia or lymphoma or HTLV-associated myelopathy

When to Get Tested?

When you have signs or symptoms that suggest that you may have an HTLV-associated condition, especially when you have identified risk factors; rarely when you have donated blood and been told that you are positive for HTLV

Sample Required?

A blood sample drawn from a vein in your arm; rarely a sample of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) collected by a doctor from the lower back using a procedure called a lumbar puncture or spinal tap

Test Preparation Needed?

None

The Test Sample

What is being tested?

Human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV) is associated with certain rare diseases of T lymphocytes (T-cells), a type of white blood cell that is an important part of the body's immune system. This test detects an HTLV infection in order to help identify the virus as the underlying cause of an individual's leukemia, lymphoma, or rare nervous system disorder.

Two types of HTLV are most commonly tested: HTLV-I and HTLV-II. It is estimated that 15-20 million people worldwide are infected with HTLV. There is a higher incidence of HTLV-I in areas near the equator, in the Caribbean, parts of Africa, southwestern Japan, and southeastern United States. A higher incidence of HTLV-II is found in Native American populations and in North American and European intravenous (IV) drug users.

An HTLV-I infection can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Both HTLV-I and HTLV-II infections can be sexually transmitted or spread through exposure to contaminated blood as occurs with sharing of needles during IV drug use, although the majority of drug use-related infections are linked to HTLV-II. Both types may be passed through a blood transfusion or an organ transplant, but infection due to these procedures is now rare in the United States because all donors are tested for HTLV-I/II.

Living in parts of the world where HTLV is more common (such as those listed above), having a sexual partner who came from one of these areas, having multiple sex partners, being an IV drug user, or having a history of blood transfusions are all factors that increase an individual's risk for HTLV infection.

Both HTLV-I and HTLV-II preferentially infect T-lymphocytes. Most people infected with HTLV-I or HTLV–II will have few to no symptoms but can pass the infection on to others. After the initial infection, the virus never completely goes away but remains in the body in an inactive (latent) form. A small percentage of those infected go on to develop one of several associated diseases, typically months to many years or even decades after their initial exposure, and may then become acutely or chronically ill.

HTLV-I is associated with:

  • Adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATL), a type of white blood cell cancer that may progress rapidly or slowly and cause symptoms such as fatigue, fever, and enlarged lymph nodes
  • HTLV-I–associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP), a rare condition that can cause weakness in the lower limbs, muscle spasms, nerve pain, and urinary incontinence
  • In some cases, other conditions such as uveitis, HTLV-I–associated infective dermatitis, rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjögren syndrome

HTLV-II is less clearly linked with specific diseases but may be associated with certain lung conditions, neurological disorders, and dermatitis.

The body responds to an HTLV-I or HTLV-II infection by producing antibodies. These antibodies can be detected in the blood during testing. The viruses may also be directly tested using molecular tests (polymerase chain reaction, PCR) that detect the genetic material of the viruses.

How is the sample collected for testing?

A blood sample is obtained by inserting a needle into a vein in the arm. Rarely, a sample of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is collected by a doctor from the lower back using a procedure called a lumbar puncture or spinal tap.

NOTE: If undergoing medical tests makes you or someone you care for anxious, embarrassed, or even difficult to manage, you might consider reading one or more of the following articles: Coping with Test Pain, Discomfort, and Anxiety, Tips on Blood Testing, Tips to Help Children through Their Medical Tests, and Tips to Help the Elderly through Their Medical Tests.

Another article, Follow That Sample, provides a glimpse at the collection and processing of a blood sample and throat culture.

Is any test preparation needed to ensure the quality of the sample?

No test preparation is needed.

The Test

Common Questions

Ask a Laboratory Scientist

This form enables you to ask specific questions about your tests. Your questions will be answered by a laboratory scientist as part of a voluntary service provided by one of our partners, American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science. If your questions are not related to your lab tests, please submit them via our Contact Us form. Thank you.

* indicates a required field



Please indicate whether you are a   
  
  



You must provide a valid email address in order to receive a response.



| Read The Disclaimer


Spam Prevention Equation

| |

Article Sources

« Return to Related Pages

NOTE: This article is based on research that utilizes the sources cited here as well as the collective experience of the Lab Tests Online Editorial Review Board. This article is periodically reviewed by the Editorial Board and may be updated as a result of the review. Any new sources cited will be added to the list and distinguished from the original sources used.

Szczypinska, E. et. al. (Updated 2012 January 11). Human T-Cell Lymphotrophic Viruses. Medscape Reference [On-line information]. Available online at http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/219285-overview through http://emedicine.medscape.com. Accessed June 2012.

(© 1995–2012). Test ID: HTLVI9539 Human T-Cell Lymphotropic Virus Types I and II (HTLV-I/-II) Antibody Screen with Confirmation, Serum. Mayo Clinic Mayo Medical Laboratories [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.mayomedicallaboratories.com/test-catalog/Clinical+and+Interpretive/9539 through http://www.mayomedicallaboratories.com. Accessed June 2012.

Slev, P. (Updated 2011 September). Human T-Lymphotropic Virus Types I, II - HTLV I, II. ARUP Consult [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.arupconsult.com/Topics/HTLV.html through http://www.arupconsult.com. Accessed June 2012.

Crane, M. (2012 March 28). FDA Approves Test for Viruses in Blood Donations. Medscape Medical News [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/761099 through http://www.medscape.com. Accessed June 2012.

Yasunaga, J. and Matsuoka, M. (2007 May 14). Human T-Cell Leukemia Virus Type 1 Induces Adult T-Cell Leukemia: From Clinical Aspects to Molecular Mechanisms Medscape Today News from Cancer Control. v14(2):133-140. [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/556137 through http://www.medscape.com. Accessed June 2012.

Bite, C. et. al. (2009 July 3). HIV/Human T-cell Lymphotropic Virus Coinfection Revisited: Impact on AIDS Progression. Medscape Today News from AIDS Rev. v11(1):8-16. [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/703708 through http://www.medscape.com. Accessed June 2012.

(© 2012). General Information – HTLV. Health Protection Agency [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.hpa.org.uk/web/HPAweb&Page&HPAwebAutoListName/Page/1191942172148 through http://www.hpa.org.uk. Accessed June 2012.

Proietti, F. et. al. (2005). Global epidemiology of HTLV-I infection and associated diseases. Oncogene v 24, 6058–6068. [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.nature.com/onc/journal/v24/n39/full/1208968a.html through http://www.nature.com. Accessed June 2012.

Rubin, M. (Revised 2007 January). Tropical Spastic Paraparesis/HTLV-1–Associated Myelopathy. Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals [On-line information]. Available online through http://www.merckmanuals.com. Accessed June 2012.

Outhred, A. et. al. (2011 July 5). Viral Arthritides. Medscape Today News from Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther. v9(5):545-554. [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/743675 through http://www.medscape.com. Accessed June 2012.

(Revised 2012 January 26). What are the risk factors for non-Hodgkin lymphoma? American Cancer Society [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/Non-HodgkinLymphoma/DetailedGuide/non-hodgkin-lymphoma-risk-factors through http://www.cancer.org. Accessed June 2012.

(2010 May 27). NINDS Tropical Spastic Paraparesis Information Page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/tropical_spastic_paraparesis/tropical_spastic_paraparesis.htm through http://www.ninds.nih.gov. Accessed June 2012.

Ratliff, C. (Reviewed 2009 July). Diseases That Mimic MS. Multiple Sclerosis Foundation [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.msfocus.org/article-details.aspx?articleID=18 through http://www.msfocus.org. Accessed June 2012.

Gan, L. and Miller, F. (2012 January 1). State of the Art: What We Know About Infectious Agents and Myositis. Medscape Today News from Curr Opin Rheumatol. V 23(6):585-594. [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/751211 through http://www.medscape.com. Accessed June 2012.

Pagana, K. D. & Pagana, T. J. (© 2011). Mosby's Diagnostic and Laboratory Test Reference 10th Edition: Mosby, Inc., Saint Louis, MO. Pp 652-653.

(June 25, 1993) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommendations for Counseling Persons Infected with Human T-Lymphotrophic Virus, Types I and II.  MMWR, 42(RR-9);1-13. Available online at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00021234.htm through http://www.cdc.gov. Accessed July 2012.