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J Med Virol. 1999 Dec;59(4):491-5.

Presence of human herpesviruses 6, 7, and 8 DNA sequences in normal brain tissue.

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Department of Microbiology, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Prince of Wales Hospital, Shatin, New Territories, Hong Kong, China.


The three novel human herpesviruses (HHV) 6, 7, and 8 are predominantly, but not exclusively, lymphotropic. In an attempt to elucidate their neurotropism in vivo, viral DNA sequences present in fresh autopsy cortical brain tissues obtained from 84 consecutive Chinese subjects (mean age, 66.9 years; range, 21-98 years) were detected by a nested polymerase chain reaction. These patients were apparently immunocompetent and free of clinical signs of viral diseases. HHV-6 DNA was detected in 36 of 84 (42.9%) patients, and the DNA-positive and -negative groups did not show a significant difference in age or sex distribution. Of the 36 HHV-6 DNA-positive cases, 9 (25%) were variant A and 27 (75%) were variant B. In view of the lower prevalence of variant A than variant B in the adult population, the two variants may share a comparable neuroinvasive potential. HHV-7 and HHV-8 DNA were detected respectively in three and two patients. The low positive rates of HHV-7 and HHV-8 may represent a relatively lower neuroinvasive potential of the viruses. Alternatively, the localization of HHV-7 and HHV-8 may be more restricted and the sampled cortical tissues may not represent the most abundant site of persistence in the nervous system. The results provide molecular evidence of the presence of the three newly identified herpesviruses in brain tissue. The pathogenic role for HHV-7 and HHV-8, as with HHV-6, in neurological diseases should not be overlooked.

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