Tropical Spastic Paraparesis (TSP) is a chronic and progressive disease of the nervous system that causes progressive weakness, stiff muscles, muscle spasms, sensory disturbance, and sphincter dysfunction.
It affects the people living in tropical countries of the world including the Caribbean and Africa.
Until mid- 1980s, it wasn’t clearly known what causes tropical spastic paraparesis. Then after came out a significant association between the human retrovirus — human T-cell lymphotrophic virus type 1 (also known as HTLV-1) — and TSP.
Since then TSP has been called HTLV-1 associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis or HAM/TSP. Almost 80 percent of cases of HAM/TSP are caused by HTLV- 1 retrovirus which impairs the immune system.
HAM/TSP also exhibits symptoms like inflammation of the uveal tract of the eye, arthritis, inflammation of the lung, inflammatory muscle disease, persistent dryness of the cornea and conjunctiva, and infectious dermatitis.
HTLV-1 is a communicable disease which can be carried from person-to-person through infected cells. Which means, an infected mother can give it to her baby through breast-feeding, it can be transmitted by sharing infected needles during intravenous drug use, or by having sex with a partner who is seropositive (having high levels of virus antibodies in their blood).
While a person may carry an HTLV-1 virus in their bodies, it may not develop into HAM/TSP. Less than 2 percent of people carrying the virus become HAM/TSP patients.
No established treatment has been discovered until now for HAM/TSP; however, corticosteroids may help relieve some symptoms of the disorder.
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