It’s a virus that few people have heard of, but doctors around the world are urging the World Health Organization (WHO) to take action against it.
The virus in question is called HTLV-1, and in some cases, it can cause leukemia.
The pathogen has also been dubbed a cousin of HIV because of the similarities in the way it’s spread.
Human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1) was first discovered in 1980, but it is believed the ancient virus was first present in nonhuman primates 40,000 to 60,000 years ago.
The virus does not negatively impact all carriers of the disease, but in some patients, it can cause spinal cord injury, inflammatory conditions, problems with mobility, and an aggressive form of leukemia.
“Ninety percent of the time, this will not trouble you, you will not be aware of it… But there’s another side of the coin, which is: Then why do we bother with it? Well… it does cause serious disease in the remaining ten percent, and it causes a very aggressive white blood cell cancer. It’s called adult T-cell leukemia,” Dr. Graham Taylor, professor of human retrovirology at Imperial College London, told Healthline.
“This is probably one of the most aggressive blood cancers, very difficult to treat, and with the best efforts… people still die. Fifty percent are dead within eight months. So that’s why we can’t ignore it,” he explained.