The relationship between HTLV-I infection and the development of spinocerebellar degeneration (SCD) in adulthood was studied. The frequency of anti-HTLV-I antibodies among patients with SCD (8 of 43, 19%) was found to be higher than the seroprevalence rate in the northern part of Kyushu island (6%). All HTLV-I carriers with SCD showed chronic progressive cerebellar ataxia as a predominant feature and cerebellar atrophy was evident in 6 of 8 patients on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain. However, SCD patients with anti-HTLV-I antibodies showed a significantly higher frequency of cerebral white matter lesions on brain MRI (6 of 8) and pyramidal tract signs in lower extremities (6 of 8) than did those without the antibodies (35%, P < 0.05 and 26%, P < 0.01, respectively). Moreover, the HTLV-I carriers with SCD exceeded 14 HTLV-I carriers having neither SCD nor HTLV-I-associated myelopathy (HAM)/tropical spastic paraparesis (TSP) (21%, P < 0.05), and 59 HTLV-I seronegative patients without brain disorders (19%, P < 0.001) in the frequency of white matter lesions. On the other hand, the HTLV-I carriers with SCD were distinct to the HAM/TSP patients in the predominance of cerebellar involvement. Therefore, the peculiar features of cerebellar, pyramidal and white matter involvement in the HTLV-I-seropostive SCD patients as well as the increased frequency of HTLV-I infection among SCD patients suggest that this syndrome may be a distinct subtype of HTLV-I-associated neurologic diseases.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Clinical Neurology