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The severity of the disease that HTLV can cause is inversely proportional to the investment in viral research without treatment or treatment
Human T cell lymphotropic virus. This complex name is HTLV, an HIV-based virus that can cause limb paralysis and leukemia in up to 5% of infected patients.
However, the severity of the disease that it can cause is inversely proportional to the investment in research for viral treatment. It was discovered in 1980 and is almost unknown. There is no cure.
With the patient's lack of vision, the researchers and researchers are making efforts to show interest in this issue for the first time on Saturday (10th), the day of World HTLV.
"Although it was found before HIV, [para o HTLV] I have not been able to improve in almost 40 years. We could make progress in HIV control, but the study of HTLV was stagnant and no country could develop antiviral drugs. "Says Júlia Fonseca de Morais, an epidemic specialist who coordinated the HTLV extension project at UFMG, the Union of Minas Gerais.
Because HTLV belongs to the retroviral family, it binds to cells. In other words: other than staying in our bodies, it is difficult to fight against the ribbon of DNA. There are two versions of this virus, HTLV I and HTLV II, which are responsible for the disease for the first time.
Infection occurs through the same path as the AIDS virus. The main route is unprotected sex. HTLV can spread through injector sharing and vertical transfer when your mother passes the virus to a child during pregnancy. The risk of infection increases with breastfeeding.
"Although genetic differences are minor, there are clinically significant differences between the two types of viruses." To date, HTLV type II has not been proven to have associated diseases, Morais explains. "When we identified a pregnant woman on an epidemic, we found that she was not breastfeeding the newborn because she had a high chance of contamination."
HIV & low – risk cousins & # 39;
The history of the virus is similar to that of scientists who discovered HIV in the 1980s, but HTLV was discovered just before HIV & # 39; s cousin. It was first observed in Japan in 1977 and isolated by scholars three years later. The AIDS virus was called HTLV III before it was thoroughly tested.
However, the drugs used to treat HIV do not affect HTLV. In short, there is no cure, and all treatments used in patients are conventional. However, the risk of people carrying the virus is low. 95% of carriers are low because they are not associated with symptoms or illness.
"Most people who have the virus are born and die without knowing what they have," said an infectologist who knows how to donate blood or donate organs, but does not do it.
Why do so few patients? Morais emphasizes. "We do not know that to get a better understanding of how the virus works, we need more research and money, not just because of the low percentage, but also because of the development of anti-virus drugs."
"Most cancer-causing virus"
HTLV is associated with a number of diseases related to degenerative to hematologic (hematopoietic, tissue and organ-related diseases that are responsible for the proliferation, maturation and destruction of blood cells). The most serious is leukemia and myelopathy associated with HTLV. This is a neurodegenerative disease that can progressively paralyze the movement of the legs.
In the case of leukemia or cancer of the blood, the trigger is associated with certain characteristics of the virus. "HTLV is the most cancer-causing virus in existence, and it has genes that weaken the control of cells beyond our genetics, so cells are more likely to become cancerous and replicate without regulation." Infectionist Júlia Fonseca de Morais.
I am already involved with myelopathy. Questions are more complex and hardly deciphered by researchers. Our body movements happen because our brain is connected to the spinal cord. The spinal cord acts as a & # 39; passageway & # 39; to command the body. Doctors believe that HTLV can cause spinal infections and that our body's reactions can cause paralysis of the legs.
"We know today that this infection is fought violently by the immune system, but we do not know exactly why this fight can cause myelopathy. This hypothesis is so strong that it eventually destroys the spinal cord tissue, There is paralysis, but there is no such information, so it is a hypothesis that you can not do effective treatment, "Morais argues.
Currently, studies on the HTLV virus are being conducted in a few states, most of them funding or partnering with private businesses. The point is that there has been a significant increase in sexually transmitted diseases, and HTLV follows this line. Therefore, it is important to invest heavily in research involving viruses before problems arise in public health and consequently in SUS (Sistema Único de Saúde).