Home' Southern Health News : Southern Health News - February 2015 Contents Dr Lloyd Einsiedel, also a Clinical Research
Fellow at Flinders University, is investigating the
human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1), a
largely unheard of disease which first surfaced in
Australia in 1988.
HTLV-1 currently infects at least 10 million people
worldwide and is endemic in Australia's remote
communities. Indigenous populations in the north-west
of South Australia may be the country's worst
affected, with 60 per cent of all patients from this
area in Alice Springs Hospital infected with HTLV-1.
As part of the project, Dr Einsiedel will work
on the ground in remote communities to
demonstrate the rate of HTLV-1 and the spectrum
of HTLV-1 related diseases, as well as identify
strategies to prevent transmission.
The project was awarded almost $900,000
by the National Health and Medical Research
Council in October and follows a hospital study
which demonstrated respiratory disease, other
inflammatory diseases, malignant cancers and
a predisposition to parasite infections, such
as scabies and Strongyloides, among patients
infected with HTLV-1.
While the prevalence of HTLV-1 in other parts of
the world, including Japan and Central America,
has been widely documented, Dr Einsiedel
said its presence in Australia remained largely
unreported and no attempt had been made to
control transmission as the significance of HTLV-1
remained greatly underestimated.
"HTLV-1 is associated with significant mortality
and morbidity," Dr Einsiedel said.
"The longest any Indigenous patient from central
Australia with adult T-cell leukaemia/lymphoma
has survived after diagnosis is six weeks, so it's
Flinders physician puts cancer
causing virus on the map
BY KYLA GOODFELLOW
A Flinders Medical Centre infectious diseases physician is exposing a virus which inflicts
rapidly fatal leukemia (adult T-cell leukaemia/lymphoma), deadly parasite infections and
debilitating respiratory disease on scores of remote Indigenous Australians.
Flinders Medical Centre
Infectious Diseases Physician
and Flinders University Clinical
Research Fellow Dr Lloyd
Einsiedel is investigating a
virus which significantly a ects
Australia's remote Indigenous
usually rapidly fatal. But there are arguably worse
scenarios. You get leukaemia, that's terrible, but
it's not that common and you die very quickly.
Respiratory disease is much more frequent and
"HTLV-1 associated bronchiectasis results in
substantial illness and death at a median age of
44. People die over a period of 20 years, very
slowly, with chronic cough, respiratory problems
and ultimately respiratory failure."
Australia has the highest known prevalence
rates of bronchiectasis in the world and HTLV-1
infection contributes substantially to these high
rates in HTLV-1 endemic areas, explained Dr
"Outcomes are worsened by co-infection with
Strongyloides stercoralis -- a parasite that is
endemic in some communities due to poor
sanitation -- and the likelihood of recurrent lower
respiratory tract infections in a setting of social
deprivation," he said.
The endemic area in Australia is vast, stretching
from the north-east of Western Australia to the
Goldfields on the other side of the border right
through to SA.
"The rates are phenomenally high in Australia and
that reflects the fact that we've just done nothing
about this issue -- we're a long way behind other
countries," he said.
"There's a huge amount of health literacy work
that needs to be completed and unfortunately,
because we've done nothing for almost 30 years,
we're trying to do the sort of work that defines
what the problem is now and that means we're
a long way behind the game so we have to catch
Despite there being limited opportunity for a cure,
Dr Einsiedel believes HTLV-1 could be eradicated
in Australia by preventing infection through
breastfeeding and sexual intercourse.
While the ability to provide alternatives to
breastfeeding are challenging in resource poor
communities, incidence rates in Japan have been
markedly reduced by early weaning.
Dr Einsiedel said his findings "demanded a public
health response to control HTLV-1 transmission,
particularly to Indigenous children who are at
The research team will work with communities to
develop culturally sensitive strategies to prevent
HTLV-1 affects communities in South America,
Peru and Brazil and is very common in central
Africa, Japan, Melanesia and Papua New Guinea.
8 / FEBRUARY 2015 / SOUTHERN HEALTH NEWS
Links Archive Southern Health News - December 2014 Southern Health News - April 2015 Navigation Previous Page Next Page