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Lancet. 2000 Sep 23;356(9235):1062-5.

Human herpesvirus 8 transmission from mother to child and between siblings in an endemic population.

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INSERM U436, Unité d'Epidémiologie des Virus Oncogènes, Institut Pasteur, Laboratoire de Génétique Humaine des Maladies Infectieuses, Faculté de Médecine Necker, Paris, France.



Transmission of human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8), the aetiological agent of Kaposi's sarcoma, is known to occur during sex among homosexual men. However, other modes of HHV-8 transmission remain to be elucidated in endemic populations.


We did a population-based seroepidemiological survey in a village in French Guiana among 1337 individuals of African origin (age 2-91 years) who had reliable genealogical data. Plasma samples were taken and tested for HHV-specific IgG by immunofluorescence assay. Risk factors and familial correlations for HHV-8 seropositivity were modelled by logistic regression analysis by use of the estimating equations approach, which expresses familial dependences in terms of odds ratios. Familial odds ratios were also acquired by use of the distribution of all possible pairs of a given familial dependence.


The overall HHV-8 seroprevalence was 13.2% with no difference according to sex. HHV-8 seropositivity was strongly age dependent: at 1.2% under 5 years, HHV-8 seroprevalence rose up to a plateau around 15% between 15 and 40 years, and showed a seroprevalence of more than 27% in individuals older than 40 years. Strong familial aggregation in HHV-8 seroprevalence was found with high mother-child (odd ratio 2.8 [95% CI 1.6-5.0]) and sib-sib (3.8 [1.6-9.5]) correlations. By contrast, no significant correlation between spouses (0.6 [0.2-1.9]) was seen.


This pattern of familial aggregation, together with the variation of HHV-8 seroprevalence with age, indicate that, in endemic populations, HHV-8 transmission mainly occurs from mother to child and between siblings during childhood and adolescence.

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