Drug users, Native Americans susceptible to infectious diseases

July 14, 1999

A virus found primarily in injection drug users and a small number of Native Americans may increase the incidence of infectious diseases, according to a multi-center, longitudinal study headed by the University of California, San Francisco.

New findings show that people infected with human T-lymphotropic virus type II (HTLV-II) have a greater risk of acquiring bronchitis, bladder and kidney infections, oral herpes, and pneumonia. The study appears in the July 12 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

HTLV-II is a retrovirus that infects white blood cells. It is closely related to HTLV-I, a retrovirus responsible for causing leukemia and a progressive spinal cord disorder called myelopathy. Whereas HTLV-I is found primarily in Japan, Africa, and the Caribbean, HTLV-II occurs primarily in Amerindian tribes in South and Central America where incidence rates can reach 30 percent.

In the United States, approximately 200,000 people are infected with HTLV-II. Injection drug users account for the vast majority of cases; roughly 10 to 20 percent of users have the virus. Approximately one to two percent of Native Americans are also infected.

"HTLV-II has been epidemic among injection drug users in the United States for over twenty years," said Edward Murphy, MD, MPH, UCSF associate professor of laboratory medicine, medicine, and epidemiology/biostatistics. "Our study is the first step towards understanding the consequences of its infection." Murphy is the principal investigator of the study.

Study participants were recruited between November, 1990 and February, 1993 from five major blood donation centers across the United States and six smaller blood banks in San Francisco and Los Angeles. The study cohort was made up of 1,213 individuals, including 136 people with HTLV-I, 337 people with HTLV-II, and 740 people with neither infection who were used as controls. Interviews and physical exams were routinely conducted for two years to assess the participant's physical health.

People infected with HTLV-II were statistically more likely than the control group to acquire bronchitis (16 percent versus 9 percent), bladder or kidney infections (15 percent versus 8 percent) and oral herpes (5 percent versus 0.7 percent). In addition, people with HTLV-II were somewhat more likely to get pneumonia.

"Although 95 percent of the people infected with HTLV-II won't get a major disease, our study shows that it does interfere with their lifestyle," said Murphy. "People have to live with the knowledge of having this lifelong virus."

The study also showed that HTLV-I caused statistically higher rates of bladder and kidney infections compared to controls (18 percent versus 8 percent). Both HTLV-I and HTLV-II can be transmitted through the sharing of contaminated needles, sexual activity, and breast milk, said Murphy. Because they can also be transmitted through the transfusion of infected blood products, blood banks have been screening for the virus since 1988. About 0.03 percent of volunteer blood donors are infected with either HTLV I or II, according to Murphy's previous research. Infected individuals are disqualified from giving blood. HTLV-I and HTLV-II were the first retroviruses identified in humans (1980 and 1982, respectively), preceding the identification of HIV in 1994. Although HTLV is most closely related to the virus that causes bovine leukemia, it affects the same lymphocytes as HIV. The researchers speculate that their present work on the biological mechanisms of HTLV could lead to a better understanding of the AIDS virus.

"Understanding how HTLV works will fill out the knowledge of human retroviruses," said Murphy. "A vaccine for HTLV may be easier to develop than a vaccine for HIV."
-end-
In addition to Murphy, co-authors include Simone Glynn, MD, MPH, MSc, senior study director, Westat Incorporated; Joy Fridey, MD, senior vice president of medical affairs, Blood Bank of San Bernardino County; James Smith, MD, PhD, associate medical director, Oklahoma Blood Institute; Ronald Sacher, MD, professor, department of laboratory medicine, Georgetown University Hospital; Catharie Nass, PhD, managing director of donor management and research, American Red Cross Blood Services - Chesapeake and Potomac Region; Helen Ownby, PhD, American Red Cross Blood Services - Southeastern Michigan; David Wright, PhD, statistician, Westat Incorporated; George Nemo, PhD, project officer, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

University of California - San Francisco

Related HIV Articles from Brightsurf:

BEAT-HIV Delaney collaboratory issues recommendations measuring persistent HIV reservoirs
Spearheaded by Wistar scientists, top worldwide HIV researchers from the BEAT-HIV Martin Delaney Collaboratory to Cure HIV-1 Infection by Combination Immunotherapy (BEAT-HIV Collaboratory) compiled the first comprehensive set of recommendations on how to best measure the size of persistent HIV reservoirs during cure-directed clinical studies.

The Lancet HIV: Study suggests a second patient has been cured of HIV
A study of the second HIV patient to undergo successful stem cell transplantation from donors with a HIV-resistant gene, finds that there was no active viral infection in the patient's blood 30 months after they stopped anti-retroviral therapy, according to a case report published in The Lancet HIV journal and presented at CROI (Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections).

Children with HIV score below HIV-negative peers in cognitive, motor function tests
Children who acquired HIV in utero or during birth or breastfeeding did not perform as well as their peers who do not have HIV on tests measuring cognitive ability, motor function and attention, according to a report published online today in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Efforts to end the HIV epidemic must not ignore people already living with HIV
Efforts to prevent new HIV transmissions in the US must be accompanied by addressing HIV-associated comorbidities to improve the health of people already living with HIV, NIH experts assert in the third of a series of JAMA commentaries.

The Lancet HIV: Severe anti-LGBT legislations associated with lower testing and awareness of HIV in African countries
This first systematic review to investigate HIV testing, treatment and viral suppression in men who have sex with men in Africa finds that among the most recent studies (conducted after 2011) only half of men have been tested for HIV in the past 12 months.

The Lancet HIV: Tenfold increase in number of adolescents on HIV treatment in South Africa since 2010, but many still untreated
A new study of more than 700,000 one to 19-year olds being treated for HIV infection suggests a ten-fold increase in the number of adolescents aged 15 to 19 receiving HIV treatment in South Africa, according to results published in The Lancet HIV journal.

Starting HIV treatment in ERs may be key to ending HIV spread worldwide
In a follow-up study conducted in South Africa, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers say they have evidence that hospital emergency departments (EDs) worldwide may be key strategic settings for curbing the spread of HIV infections in hard-to-reach populations if the EDs jump-start treatment and case management as well as diagnosis of the disease.

NIH HIV experts prioritize research to achieve sustained ART-free HIV remission
Achieving sustained remission of HIV without life-long antiretroviral therapy (ART) is a top HIV research priority, according to a new commentary in JAMA by experts at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health.

The Lancet HIV: PrEP implementation is associated with a rapid decline in new HIV infections
Study from Australia is the first to evaluate a population-level roll-out of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in men who have sex with men.

Researchers date 'hibernating' HIV strains, advancing BC's leadership in HIV cure research
Researchers have developed a novel way for dating 'hibernating' HIV strains, in an advancement for HIV cure research.

Read More: HIV News and HIV Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.