Spinocerebellar syndrome in patients infected with human T-lymphotropic virus types I and II (HTLV-I/HTLV-II): Report of 3 cases from Panama
Cerebellar symptoms at onset are unusual in HTLV-I/II-associated tropical spastic paraparesis (TSP). A prospective study of neurological disorders in Panama (1985-1990) revealed 13 patients with TSP and 3 with HTLV-I/II-associated spinocerebellar syndrome (HSCS) presenting at onset loss of balance, wide-based stance and gait, truncal instability, and mild leg ataxia (vermian cerebellar syndrome), with absent upper limb dysmetria but with postural tremor, downbeat nystagmus, and dysarthria. In 4-5 years, spinal cord manifestations of TSP developed, including spastic paraparesis, pyramidal signs, bladder and sphincter disturbances. Two patients were infected with HTLV-I and another one, a Guaymi Amerindian woman, with HTLV-II. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) demonstrated cerebellar atrophy involving predominantly the superior vermis. Mild axonal peripheral neuropathy in the lower limbs, dorsal column involvement and inflammatory myopathy were found by neurophysiology studies. There are 14 similar cases reported in Japan and Canada, but to our knowledge these are the first documented cases of HSCS in the tropics. A cerebellar syndrome constitutes another form of presentation of HTLV-I/II infection of the nervous system.