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Microbes Infect. 2003 Aug;5(10):879-89.

The varicella-zoster virus induces apoptosis in vitro in subpopulations of primary human peripheral blood mononuclear cells.

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Institute for Microbiology and Virology, University of Witten/Herdecke, Stockumer Str. 10, 58448, Witten, Germany.


Varicella-zoster virus (VZV), a member of Herpesviridae, subfamily alpha-Herpesvirinae, is pathogenic exclusively in the human. Chickenpox is the result of primary infection of VZV. During the viremic stage, VZV infects peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) and spreads to the periphery. In skin cells it causes typical lesions. Apoptosis has been demonstrated in different cell types by other alpha-herpesviruses. VZV-infected T lymphocytes, B lymphocytes, and monocytes, respectively, were examined in this in vitro study by flow cytometry, immunofluorescence and electron microscopy. All infected cell types showed signs of apoptosis: a lower DNA content, DNA fragmentation, loss of membrane integrity, and an altered nuclear morphology. The results observed led to the suggestion that VZV can induce apoptosis during infection in vivo in the PBMC subpopulations.

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