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The severity of the disease that can be caused by HTLV is inversely proportional to investing in research on the virus, which until now has no medication or treatment
Human T-cell lymphotropic virus. The name of the complex is simplified by the abbreviation: HTLV, a virus of the HIV family, which can trigger leg paralysis and leukemia in up to 5% of infected patients.
However, the severity of the disease it can cause is inversely proportional to investing in research to treat the virus. It was discovered in 1980, little is known about it. There is no medicine either.
Due to a lack of patient perspective, researchers and researchers of this virus are trying to draw attention to the problem of creating the World HTLV Day, which is celebrated for the first time on Saturday (10).
"Although he was found out about HIV, [para o HTLV] little progress in these almost forty years. We have progressed in HIV control, but the HTLV study has stagnated and no country has been able to develop an antiretroviral drug to fight it, "says Júlia Fonseca de Morais, a contagious disease expert, who coordinates the HTLV extension project at the UFMG Federal Republic of Minas Gerais ).
HTLV is a family of retroviruses, which means that it establishes a bond with our cells. In other words: in addition to being transferred to our body, it is attached to the strips of our DNA, which makes it difficult to fight. The virus has two versions, HTLV I and HTLV II, which are the first ones responsible for the disease.
It is transmitted through the same pathways of AIDS virus, the main unprotected sexual intercourse. HTLV can also be expanded by exchanging a syringe and a vertical transfer when the mother passes the virus to the baby during pregnancy. The risk of infection increases with breastfeeding.
"The genetic difference is small, but there is a big clinical difference between the two types of virus. To date, it has not been shown that HTLV type II is a related disease," explains Morais. "As far as the transfer is concerned, when we identified the pregnant woman with the virus, we stated that she did not breast-feed with a newborn because of the high probability of contamination."
"Cousin" of HIV and low risk
The history of the virus is similar to the discovery of AIDS scientists in the 1980s. HTLV was discovered just before his "cousin," HIV. It was first observed in Japan in 1977, and three years later they were isolated by scholars. The AIDS virus was even called HTLV III before being thoroughly examined.
However, medicines used in HIV treatment have no effect on HTLV. In short, there is no medicine and all treatments used in patients are palliative. Risks for those who carry the virus are low, as 95% of carriers do not have any associated symptoms or illnesses.
"Most people who have a virus are born and die without knowing what they have. Those who know how to find out when to donate blood or donate organs, but who does not do it does not end without knowing" explained the infectious agent.
And why do some patients develop? Morais emphasized: "We do not know, so we need more research and more resources to better understand how the virus works, not only because of the low percentage, but also for the development of anti-virus drugs."
"The most carcinogenic virus"
HTLV is associated with various diseases, from degenerative to hematological (those related to hematopoietic system, tissues and organs responsible for proliferation, maturation and destruction of blood cells). The most serious are leukemia and myelopathy associated with HTLV – a neurodegenerative disease that can gradually paralyze the movement of the legs.
In case of leukemia or cancer in the blood, triggering is associated with the specific character of the virus. "HTLV is the most carcinogenic virus, it has genes that weaken the control that cells carry out over our genetics, so the cell is more likely to become cancer and replicate without any regulation," explains Júlia Fonseca de Morais, an infectious agent.
I am already associated with myelopathy, the issue is more complicated and still a little deciphered by researchers. The movements of our body are due to the connection of our brain with the spinal cord, which serves as a "channel" for the body. Doctors believe that HTLV can cause spinal infection and that the reaction of our body may be responsible for paralysis of the legs.
"Today we know that this infection is struggling strongly with the immune system, but not precisely because this fight can cause myelopathy. The main hypothesis is that this fight is so powerful that it can end the destruction of spinal tissue, paralysis in the legs, but only hypothesis, because this information is not that we can not effectively treat, "Morais claims.
Currently, only a few countries maintain repetitive HTLV research, most of which are financed or partners with private initiatives. The point is that there has been a significant increase in sexually transmitted diseases, and HTLV follows this line. Therefore, the importance of large investment in research on the virus before the problem develops in public health and consequently SUS (Sistema Único de Saúde).