Plasma of patients infected with HTLV-1 is considered non-infectious but detection of HTLV-1 genomic RNA in plasma has been recently reported. The aim of this project was to detect and quantify HTLV-1 RNA in plasma and assess its potential value in diagnosis and prognosis. RNA from 1 ml of plasma from 65 subjects infected with HTLV-1 (27 asymptomatic carriers [AC]), 17 patients with HTLV-1-associated myelopathy (HAM/TSP), 14 with adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATLL), two co-infected with HIV, and five with other HTLV-1-associated disease, was extracted and reverse transcribed. HTLV-1 specific nested PCR was performed using primers to amplify the conserved Tax region. All samples were run in quadruplicate, nested PCR products were detected by gel electrophoresis. HTLV-1 RNA was detected in plasma from 18 (28%) patients, always at a very low copy number (3–13 copies viral cDNA per milliliter of plasma). Mean values of HTLV-1 proviral load did not differ between patients in whom HTLV-1 RNA was detected and patients in whom it was not possible to detect HTLV-1 RNA in plasma. HTLV-1 genomic RNA can be detected in the plasma of a minority of patients but not at a level or frequency to be useful clinically or diagnostically. Lack of transmission of HTLV-1 by plasma is due to the rare presence of HTLV-1 virions, regardless of any other factor. J. Med. Virol. 87:2130–2134, 2015. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.