Histology Look-a-like #117
Adult T-cell leukemia v Purple verbena
The image above shows a number of ‘flower cells’ that are pathognomonic of HTLV-1 induced adult T-cell leukemia. The cells are lymphocytes with very irregular shaped nuclei.
HTLV-1 (Human T-Lymphotrophic Virus 1) was the first identified retrovirus. It was discovered in Japan where it is most prevalent (Verdonck et al. 2007).
Like HIV, transmission of HTLV-1 is believed to occur from infected mother to child during breastfeeding; by sexual contact; or through exposure to contaminated blood, either through blood transfusion or sharing of contaminated needles (Gotuzzo and Verdonck, 2004).
But not all HTLV-1 infections lead to adult T-cell leukemia. Only about 1-5% of infected patients will develop cancer which most frequently presents itself between 40 and 60 years after the initial infection (CDC, 2010).
The cancer is thought to arise due to the effects of incorporating viral DNA into the host lymphocyte DNA resulting in pro-oncogenic mutations. Chronic stimulation of the lymphocytes at the cytokine level may play a role in the development of the malignancy. The leukemia ranges from a very indolent and slowly progressive type to a very aggressive and nearly uniformly lethal proliferative type.
Interestingly, the plant Verbena has longstanding use in herbalism and folk medicine, usually as an herbal tea. Verbena has been listed as one of the 38 plants used to prepare Bach flower remedies, a kind of alternative medicine promoted for its effect on health. However, Cancer Research UK are quick to point out that “there is no scientific evidence to prove that flower remedies can control, cure or prevent any type of disease, including cancer” (Cancer Research UK, 2014).
Gotuzzo, E. and Verdonck, K., 2004, HTLV-1: Clinical impact of a chronic infection
Center for Disease Control (CDC) here
Verdonck, K.; González, E.; Van Dooren, S.; Vandamme, A. M.; Vanham, G.; Gotuzzo, E. (2007). “Human T-lymphotropic virus 1: Recent knowledge about an ancient infection”. The Lancet Infectious Diseases 7 (4): 266
"Flower remedies". Cancer Research UK. Retrieved September 2013.