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Am J Clin Pathol. 2001 Nov;116(5):648-54.

Prevalence and cellular reservoir of latent human herpesvirus 6 in tonsillar lymphoid tissue.

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Department of Pathology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, USA.


There are few studies that examine prevalence, quantity, and cellular proclivity of latent human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) in healthy populations. We examined 69 tonsils with paired blood specimens from children without evidence of acute infection. By polymerase chain reaction (PCR), HHV-6 was detected at low levels in 100% of tonsils and 39% of blood samples (n = 27), suggesting that prevalence of latent HHV-6 infection is high in children and may be underestimated by PCR analysis of blood. Although HHV-6A and HHV-6B were detected, HHV-6B predominated, being found in 97% of samples (n = 67). Tonsil sections from 7 cases were examined by in situ hybridization using 2 HHV-6 probes and immunohistochemical analysis. Using both in situ hybridization and immunohistochemical analysis, all tissues revealed marked HHV-6-specific staining in the squamous epithelium of the tonsillar crypts and rare positive lymphocytes. We conclude that HHV-6 is present universally in tonsils of children, and tonsillar epithelium may be an important viral reservoir in latent infection.

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