Background: The human T-cell lymphotropic virus type-I (HTLV-I) is the first identified pathogenic human retrovirus. Breastfeeding has been reported to be the predominant route of vertical transmission of HTLV-I. The objective of this systematic review was to pool and evaluate the data on the transmission of HTLV-I with different infant-feeding practices on children born to HTLV-I-positive mothers. We conducted a systematic review of comparison of HTLV-I transmission risk to breastfed and bottle-fed babies.
Methods: We searched the following databases: MEDLINE, SID, Magiran, and Cochrane Library. The search strategy was limited to articles in English. Initial screening identified 254 citations; of these, 96 potentially relevant articles were identified. After reviewing the 96 full-text articles in detail, 7 reports met the inclusion criteria for this review.
Results: Pooled odds ratio (OR) and risk difference (RD) of HTLV-I transmission in the breastfed group compared to the bottle-fed infants were [OR = 3.48, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.58-7.64, P = 0.0020, Cochran’s Q = 27.7, P = 0.0010, and I2 = 67.5%] and (RD = 17.1%, 95% CI: 7.5%-26.7%, P < 0.0001, Cochran’s Q = 106, P < 0.0001, and I2 = 91.5%). So, we have evidence to support that exclusive breast feeding more than 6 months in comparison to bottle feeding highly increases transmission rate of HTLV-I infection. We have also enough evidence to support that exclusive breast feeding up to 6 months compared to bottle feeding does not increase transmission rate of HTLV-I infection (pooled OR = 0.912, CI: 0.45-1.80; OR: 3.83, CI: 1.80-8.10, respectively).
Conclusion: The current meta-analysis showed that short period (less than 6 months) of breastfeeding did not increase risk of HTLV-I infection transmission from mother to child among breastfeeders and more than 6 months of breastfeeding significantly increased the risk of HTLV-I infection. However, our meta-analysis shows that refraining from breastfeeding can decrease the risk of vertical HTLV-I transmission.