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Quantitative differences in antibody responses between normal donors HAM/TSP patients, asymptomatic carriers, and ATL patients from Jamaica: can they be used to estimate risk of disease?

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Adult T cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATL) and HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP) are caused by HTLV-I infection. In these patients, the antibody titer and provirus load are elevated compared to levels in asymptomatic carriers (AC). These methods that determine HTLV-I infection do not differentiate between AC, HAM/TSP patients, and ATL patients. We have reported on a Luciferase Immunoprecipitation System (LIPS), a highly sensitive, quantitative technology that can efficiently detect HTLV-I antibody responses in serum of infected individuals [1]. We extended our preliminary analysis to detect anti-HTLV-I antibodies in samples from 439 persons from Jamaica: normal donors (ND), AC, ATL, and HAM/TSP patients. The antibody responses of ND differed significantly from those of HTLV-I infected patients for all three immunodominant proteins. More specifically, HAM/TSP patients were 2 times more likely to have an antibody response >1 standard deviation above the mean for ACs in gag (Odds Ratio (OR) = 2.45, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.23-4.88) and were 5 times more likely to exceed that threshold in env (OR = 5.27, CI = 2.51-11.08). ATL patients were 1.8 times more likely to exceed that threshold in env (OR = 1.82, CI = 1.01-3.27) and 70% less likely to exceed that threshold in tax (OR = 0.30, CI = 0.11-0.51). HAM/TSP patients had significantly higher antibody responses in gag, env, and tax compared to ATL patients. These significant differences between antibody responses in HTLV-I infected individuals may be a useful diagnostic tool in the future.


  1. 1.

    Burbelo P, Meoli E, Leahy H, Graham J, Yao K, Oh U, Janik J, Mahieux R, Kashanchi F, Iadarola M, Jacobson S: Anti-HTLV antibody profiling reveals an antibody signature for HTLV-I-Associated Myelopathy/Tropical Spastic Paraparesis (HAM/TSP). Retrovirology. 2008, 5: 96-10.1186/1742-4690-5-96.

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Correspondence to Yoshimi Akahata or Anna Abrams.

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This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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  • Antibody Response
  • Antibody Titer
  • Infected Patient
  • Infected Individual
  • Quantitative Difference