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Human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) is a neglected virus that can cause severe disease and be transmitted from mother to child through breastfeeding. Avoidance of breastfeeding prevents 80% of vertical transmission. The United Kingdom (UK) is currently assessing whether HTLV-1-targeted antenatal screening should be implemented.


We aimed to assess the impact and cost-effectiveness of a targeted programme to prevent HTLV-1 vertical transmission in England and Wales.


We estimated the number of pregnant women who have high risk of HTLV-1 infection based on their or their partner’s country of birth. With data from 2021, we used a mathematical model to assess cost-effectiveness of HTLV-1 antenatal screening. We also estimated the annual number of infant infections and the number that could be prevented with screening and intervention.


We estimate that ca 99,000 pregnant women in England and Wales have high risk of HTLV-1 infection. In the absence of screening, 74 (range: 25–211) HTLV-1 infections in infants would be expected to occur every year in England and Wales. Implementation of targeted screening would prevent 58 (range: 19–164) infant infections annually. The intervention is effective (incremental 0.00333 quality-adjusted life years (QALY)) and cost-saving (GBP −57.56 (EUR −66.85)).


Our findings support implementation of HTLV-1 targeted antenatal screening to reduce vertical transmission from mothers to infants in the UK.


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