Prevalence of Bowel Symptoms in Patients Infected with Human T-Lymphotropic type 1 Virus

Abstract INTRODUCTION: Bowel dysfunction is frequent in patients with spinal cord diseases, but little is known about the prevalence of bowel symptoms in human T-lymphotropic virus-(HTLV-1) infected individuals. The purpose of this study is to determine the frequency of bowel symptoms in HTLV-1 infected individuals and their correlation with the degree of neurologic disease. METHODS: This is a cross-sectional study comparing the frequency of bowel symptoms in HTLV-1-infected individuals* and seronegative donors (controls). Patients answered a questionnaire, the Rome III Criteria was applied, and stool consistency was evaluated by the Bristol Stool Form Scale. The individuals were classified as HTLV-1 carriers, probable HTLV-1 myelopathy and definitive HTLV-1 associated myelopathy or tropical spastic paraparesis (definitive HAM / TSP)**. RESULTS: We studied 72 HTLV-1 infected individuals and 72 controls with equal age and gender distribution. Constipation was the most frequent complaint, occurring in 38 % of HTLV-1 individuals and in 15 % of the controls. In comparison to the seronegative controls, the probability of constipation occurrence was approximately 18 times higher in definitive HAM / TSP patients. Straining, lumpy or hard stools, sensation of anorectal obstruction/blockage, fewer than 3 defecations per week, flatulence, soiling, evacuation pain, and bleeding were also more frequent in the HTLV-1 patients than in the controls. Moreover, bowel symptoms were more frequent in patients with definitive or probable HAM / TSP than in carriers. CONCLUSIONS: Bowel symptoms were more frequent in HTLV-1-infected patients than in seronegative controls and the frequency of bowel symptoms correlated with the severity of neurologic disease.