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Trends in the prevalence and distribution of HTLV-1 and HTLV-2 infections in Spain

Ana Treviño1*, Antonio Aguilera2, Estrella Caballero3, Rafael Benito4, Patricia Parra1, Jose M Eiros5, Araceli Hernandez6, Enrique Calderón7, Manuel Rodríguez8, Alvaro Torres9, Juan García10, Jose Manuel Ramos11, Lourdes Roc12, Goitzane Marcaida13, Carmen Rodríguez14, Matilde Trigo15, Cesar Gomez16, Raul Ortíz de Lejarazu5, Carmen de Mendoza1, Vincent Soriano1 and On Behalf of the HTLV Spanish Study Group

Author Affiliations

1 Infectious Diseases Department, Hospital Carlos III, Calle Sinesio Delgado 10, Madrid 28029, Spain

2 Service of Microbiology, Hospital Conxo, Santiago de Compostela, Spain

3 Service of Microbiology, Hospital Vall d'Hebron, Barcelona, Spain

4 Service of Microbiology, Hospital Clínico Universitario Lozano Blesa, Zaragoza, Spain

5 Service of Microbiology, Hospital Clínico Universitario, Valladolid, Spain

6 Service of Microbiology, Hospital Universitario Insular, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain

7 CIBER in Public Health and Epidemiology, Hospital Universitario Virgen del Rocío, Seville, Spain

8 Service of Microbiology, Hospital Universitario Puerta del Mar, Cádiz, Spain

9 Service of Microbiology Hospital Universitario de Canarias, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain

10 Service of Microbiology, Hospital Cristal-Piñor, Orense, Spain

11 Infectious Disease Unit, Hospital General, Elche, Spain

12 Service of Microbiology, Hospital Miguel Servet, Zaragoza, Spain

13 Center of Biomedical Diagnostic, Hospital General Universitario, Valencia, Spain

14 Centro Sanitario Sandoval, Madrid, Spain

15 Service of Microbiology, Complejo Hospitalario, Pontevedra, Spain

16 Service of Microbiology, Complejo Hospitalario Virgen de la Salud, Toledo, Spain

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Virology Journal 2012, 9:71  doi:10.1186/1743-422X-9-71

Published: 23 March 2012



Although most HTLV infections in Spain have been found in native intravenous drug users carrying HTLV-2, the large immigration flows from Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa in recent years may have changed the prevalence and distribution of HTLV-1 and HTLV-2 infections, and hypothetically open the opportunity for introducing HTLV-3 or HTLV-4 in Spain. To assess the current seroprevalence of HTLV infection in Spain a national multicenter, cross-sectional, study was conducted in June 2009.


A total of 6,460 consecutive outpatients attending 16 hospitals were examined. Overall, 12% were immigrants, and their main origin was Latin America (4.9%), Africa (3.6%) and other European countries (2.8%). Nine individuals were seroreactive for HTLV antibodies (overall prevalence, 0.14%). Evidence of HTLV-1 infection was confirmed by Western blot in 4 subjects (prevalence 0.06%) while HTLV-2 infection was found in 5 (prevalence 0.08%). Infection with HTLV types 1, 2, 3 and 4 was discarded by Western blot and specific PCR assays in another two specimens initially reactive in the enzyme immunoassay. All but one HTLV-1 cases were Latin-Americans while all persons with HTLV-2 infection were native Spaniards.


The overall prevalence of HTLV infections in Spain remains low, with no evidence of HTLV-3 or HTLV-4 infections so far.

HTLV; Spain; Seroprevalence; Epidemiology; HTLV-3; HTLV-4