Background: Vertical transmission of HTLV-1 could lead to the early development of HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP). This significantly affects quality of life and increases morbimortality. Objective: To describe the epidemiological and clinical characteristics of patients with early-onset HAM/TSP, defined as disease onset before 20 years of age. Methods: This is a retrospective study from an HTLV-1 clinical cohort between 1989 and 2019. We searched for medical records of patients with (1) diagnosis of HTLV-1 infection using two ELISA and/or one Western blot, (2) clinical diagnosis of HAM/TSP by neurological assessment, and (3) HAM/TSP symptom-onset before 20 years of age. Results: A total of 38 cases were identified in the cohort; 25 were female (66%). The median age of onset was 14 years old. 31 (82%) cases had HTLV-1 testing done among family members; 22 out of 25 tested mothers (88%) were HTLV-1 positive. Most patients (27/34) were breastfed for more than one year. Disease progression measured through EDSS and IPEC-1 showed an upward trend towards worsening spasticity with 18 patients (47%) eventually requiring mobility aids. Conclusions: Cases of early-onset HAM/TSP are not of rare occurrence, which translates into many more years of dependency, the use of mobility aids, and increased overall morbidity.
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