ECU researchers Dr. Isabelle Lemasson and Dr. Nick Polakowski have received more than $840,000 in grant funding since June to continue their studies of a rare disease that can lead to a fatal form of leukemia. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

Researchers at East Carolina University have received more than $840,000 in grant funding since June to continue their studies of a rare disease that can lead to a fatal form of leukemia.

The retrovirus human T-cell leukemia virus type 1, or HTLV-1, is a cousin of HIV that is transmitted in similar ways, but has been around for more than 2,000 years, having been discovered in mummies found in South America.

There are an estimated 15 million people worldwide living with the infection, of which approximately 5 percent will develop a form of leukemia that has a 100-percent fatality rate. Another 5 percent will develop a completely separate progressive neurological disorder, similar to a progressive form of multiple sclerosis.

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Originally published March 3, 2018. Photo by Cliff Hollis.

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