Global Virus Network Issues Open Letter to WHO On Potent Human Carcinogen - Human T Cell Leukemia Virus-1
- Brazil – a prevalence rate of 1.3% in blood donors in certain regions, 1.8% in the general population and 1.05% in pregnant women with 33% of their family members including children found to be positive.
- Central African Republic – 7% of older, female Pygmies in the Southern region infected.
- Gabon – a HTLV-1 prevalence of 5–10% has been observed in adults.
- Iran - up to 3% of adults are infected in the Mashhad area while HTLV-1 is found across the country.
- Jamaica – 6.1% in the general population and other Caribbean islands that have been studied have similar prevalence rates.
- Japan – 1,000,000 are HTLV-1 positive and in Southern regions 10% of adults more than 50 years of age carry this virus.
- Nigeria – 850,000 to 1.7 million infected.
- Romania – infection rates include 5.3/10,000 among first-time blood donors, and 3-25% in poly-transfused patients.
According to Graham P. Taylor, MDMB, DSc, Professor of Human Retrovirology, Imperial College London, Honorary Consultant, National Centre for Human Retrovirology, St. Mary’s Hospital, London and member, GVN HTLV-1 Task Force, “The general neglect, globally, of the importance of HTLV-1 as a sexually transmitted infection that causes a range of debilitating inflammatory diseases does our patients, who request a sexual health screen, a disservice. It is also important to recognize the importance of mother-to-child transmission of HTLV-1 in the development of adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma decades later. Despite the availability of highly sensitive and specific diagnostic tests for infection and a proven intervention, except for Japan, there are no antenatal screening programs. Evaluating the cost effectiveness of such programs should now be a priority.”
In non-endemic areas, due to the migration of people and the sexual transmission of the virus, HTLV-1 and 2 have also been detected. Though most people remain undiagnosed, In the UK an estimated 20,000 - 30,000 people live with the virus, whilst in metropolitan France an estimated 10,000 - 25,000 people are HTLV-1 infected. In the USA, it is estimated that approximately 266,000 individuals are infected with HTLV-1 or -2, and that 3,600 people with HTLV-1 Associated Myelopathy/Tropical Spastic Paraparesis (HAM/TSP) remain undiagnosed.
Yoshi Yamano, MD, PhD, Professor at St. Marianna University School of Medicine, Kawasaki, Japan and member of the GVN HTLV-1 Task Force, said, “To prevent mother to child infection, the Japanese government has been offering HTLV-1 screening for all pregnant women without cost. Taking a leadership role to promote research, it also provides grants for clinical trials and patient registries focused on ATLL and HAM/TSP.”
In addition to co-organizing the impactful sessions on HTLV during the GVN meeting last September, Prof. Gallo and Sharon Lewin, MD, PhD, director of The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, a GVN Center of Excellence, announced Christian Bréchot, MD, PhD, as the new President of the GVN. Prof. Bréchot is shaping the vision and strategy of the GVN and believes this call to action is an important step in catalyzing action initiated by GVN’s members.
“GVN offers a unique resource to leading public health officials including those at the WHO,” said Prof. Bréchot. “We look forward to developing significant partnerships with WHO and others to provide resources from our vast network to help bring to light urgent needs and close gaps in information such as this urgent crisis regarding HTLV-1. The GVN has begun to grow its network, including in Africa, and we hope that with this outreach that we will be better positioned to successfully combat neglected viral threats such as HTLV-1.”
Said William Hall, MD, PhD, Co-founder of the GVN and Professor of Microbiology at the University College Dublin and Member of the GVN HTLV-1 Task Force, “This virus has been underestimated since the time of its discovery, perhaps because it is restricted to certain regions, or because it is not terribly infectious. However, for decades it has been known that HTLV-1 is highly carcinogenic and causes severe paralytic neurologic disease and immune disorders that can lead to bacterial infections. It is time that the WHO publicize prevention strategies against this devastating virus.”
The GVN will hold its 10th International Meeting November 28-30 in Annecy, France with the theme, “Eradication and Control of (Re-)Emerging Viruses.” The meeting will be co-hosted by GVN Centers of Excellence, the Fondation Mérieux (FM) and the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover (TiHo), and led by FM’s Prof. Hubert Endtz, TiHo’s Prof. Ab Osterhaus and GVN’s Prof. Christian Bréchot.
Global Virus Network (GVN)
Nora Samaranayake, 410-706-8614
Source: Global Virus Network (GVN)