Rapid dissemination of human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 during primary infection in transplant recipients

Lucy B.M. Cook*, Anat Melamed, Maria Antonietta Demontis, Daniel J. Laydon, James M. Fox, Jennifer H.C. Tosswill, Declan Freitas, Ashley D. Price, James F. Medcalf, Fabiola Martin, James M. Neuberger, Charles R.M. Bangham, Graham P. Taylor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) infects an estimated 10 million persons globally with transmission resulting in lifelong infection. Disease, linked to high proviral load, occurs in a minority. In established infection HTLV-1 replicates through infectious spread and clonal expansion of infected lymphocytes. Little is known about acute HTLV-1 infection. The kinetics of early HTLV-1 infection, following transplantation-acquired infection in three recipients from one HTLV-1 infected donor, is reported. The recipients were treated with two HTLV-1 enzyme inhibitors 3 weeks post exposure following the detection of HTLV-1 provirus at low level in each recipient. HTLV-1 infection was serially monitored by serology, quantification of proviral load and HTLV-1 2LTR DNA circles and by HTLV-1 unique integration site analysis. Results: HTLV-1 antibodies were first detected 16-39 days post-transplantation. HTLV-1 provirus was detected by PCR on day 16-23 and increased by 2-3 log by day 38-45 with a peak proviral doubling time of 1.4 days, after which steady state was reached. The rapid proviral load expansion was associated with high frequency of HTLV-1 2LTR DNA circles. The number of HTLV-1 unique integration sites was high compared with established HTLV-1 infection. Clonal expansion of infected cells was detected as early as day 37 with high initial oligoclonality index, consistent with early mitotic proliferation. Conclusions: In recipients infected through organ transplantation HTLV-1 disseminated rapidly despite early anti-HTLV-1 treatment. Proviral load set point was reached within 6 weeks. Seroconversion was not delayed. Unique integration site analysis and HTLV-1 2LTR DNA circles indicated early clonal expansion and high rate of infectious spread.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Cook et al.


  • 2LTR DNA circles
  • Clonality
  • HTLV-1
  • Organ transplantation
  • Proviral load
  • Raltegravir
  • Zidovudine


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