Tropical spastic paraparesis. A clinical study of 50 patients from Tumaco (Colombia) and review of the worldwide features of the syndrome

Gustavo C. Román, Lydia N. Román

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Tropical spastic paraparesis (TSP) is a chronic and slowly progressive endemic myelopathy occurring in geographical isolates in the Caribbean, South India, South Africa, the Seychelles, and Colombia. A detailed clinical and laboratory study was performed on 50 TSP patients from the island of Tumaco (Colombia), in a tropical rain forest area. Most patients were middle-aged blacks, 29 (58%) men and 21 women. In every case, neurological examination confirmed the presence of pyramidal signs in the lower limbs, plus, in 58%, moderate decrease in vibratory perception distally in the feet, bilaterally and symmetrically. Absent ankle jerks were found in 28%. Slow onset and chronic progression were documented in most patients. Positive treponemal serology, from yaws infection in childhood, was found in the serum in 92%, and in 19% also in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). No pleocytosis was documented on 27 CSF samples, but increased protein content occurred in 86%, with elevation of gamma-globulins in 78%. Treatment of 20 patients with high doses of penicillin produced no change in the clinical picture. TSP emerges from this review of the literature as a remarkably homogeneous clinical entity worldwide. A retrovirus - human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) - has been recently implicated as a possible etiology of the syndrome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)121-138
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of the Neurological Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 1988
Externally publishedYes


  • HTLV-1
  • Myelopathy
  • Neuroepidemiology
  • Retroviruses
  • Tropical neurology
  • Tropical spastic paraparesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Aging


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