• Article

Mother-to-Child Transmission of Human T-Cell Lymphotropic Virus Type I Associated with Prolonged Breast-Feeding

We assessed the risk of transmitting human T-cell lymphotropic virus type I (HTLV-I) through breast-feeding.

To assess the risk of mother-to-child transmission of HTLV-I, 212 HTLV-I-seropositive women and 145 HTLV-I-seronegative women were enrolled in a prospective cohort study conducted in Kingston, Jamaica. Their offspring were examined at regular intervals, and HTLV-I serostatus was determined at each visit.

Twenty-eight of the 181 children with at least one postnatal visit born to HTLV-I-seropositive women (and none of the children born to HTLV-I-seronegative women) were persistently seropositive and were considered HTLV-I infected (Kaplan-Meier estimated cumulative incidence, 18%; 95% CI, 12%-24%). Among children observed for at least 24 months, 19 (32%) of 60 children breast fed for 12 months or longer were HTLV-I seropositive, compared with only 8 (9%) of 86 children breast-fed for less than 12 months (relative risk, 3.4; 95% CI, 1.7-6.9). Compared with children weaned at younger ages, transmission of HTLV-I was associated with continued breast-feeding of children who were 12 to 18 months of age (relative hazard, 6.4; 95% CI, 2.1-180.2) and older than 18 months (relative hazard, 18.1; 95% CI, 1.4-29.5). Transmission was also associated with higher maternal antibody titer (a possible marker of virus load), prolonged duration of ruptured membranes during childbirth, and lower maternal income.

These results suggest that limiting the duration of breast-feeding to less than 12 months for children born to HTLV-I-seropositive mothers may significantly reduce mother-to-child transmission of HTLV-I.


Wiktor, S. Z., Pate, E. J., Rosenberg, P. L., Barnett, M., Palmer, P., Medeiros, D., ... Blattner, W. A. (1997). Mother-to-Child Transmission of Human T-Cell Lymphotropic Virus Type I Associated with Prolonged Breast-Feeding. Journal of Human Virology, 1(1), 37-44.