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Dermatological manifestations of individuals infected with human T cell lymphotropic virus type I (HTLV-I)


  • Funding: National Council of Technological and Scientific Development (Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Cientifico e Tecnológico [CNPq]) of Brazil and the Bahia State Foundation for the Support of Research (FAPESB). EMC is a senior CNPq investigator. MJG was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health (NIH)/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) (ref. K24 AI078884).
  • Conflicts of interest: None.



Human T cell lymphotropic virus type I (HTLV-I) is associated with specific manifestations such as adult T cell lymphoma/leukemia (ATLL), HTLV-I-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP), HTLV-I-associated uveitis, and infective dermatitis associated with HTLV-I (IDH). Although ATLL and IDH are considered specific manifestations of HTLV-I infection, several dermatological manifestations have been described in HTLV-I seropositive patients.


This study was conducted to determine the prevalences of skin lesions in patients infected with HTLV-I in an area of Brazil endemic for HTLV-I infection and to compare these prevalences with those in seronegative individuals in the same region.


A prevalence study was conducted between 2008 and 2010 with two groups of individuals comprising, respectively, 179 HTLV-I seropositive (positive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay [ELISA] and positive Western blot analysis) and 193 HTLV-I seronegative individuals (ELISA-negative). The subjects were selected on a random basis and evaluated using a questionnaire to obtain epidemiological and clinical data. A physical examination was performed to verify the presence of skin lesions.


Superficial mycoses were found in 54 (30.2%) seropositive subjects and in 26 (13.5%) of the seronegative group (< 0.001). Xerosis was found in 39.1% of HTLV-I infected subjects and in 9.3% of seronegative controls (< 0.001). Ichthyosis was diagnosed in nine (5.0%) HTLV-I seropositive subjects but in none of the control group (P = 0.001). A diagnosis of seborrheic dermatitis was made in 43 (24.0%) HTLV-I infected subjects and in 24 (12.4%) seronegative controls (= 0.004). Furthermore, dermatological manifestations were more intense in the HTLV-I seropositive group.


Several dermatological manifestations are more common and more severe in HTLV-I seropositive subjects. The presence of these manifestations in an area endemic for HTLV-I infection may provide some clues in the investigation of this infection.