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J Infect Dis. 2004 Sep 15;190(6):1068-75. Epub 2004 Aug 11.

Mother-to-child transmission of human herpesvirus-8 in South Africa.

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Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool, and Cancer Research UK Epidemiology Unit, Oxford, United Kingdom.


To investigate transmission of human herpesvirus (HHV)-8, 2546 mother-child pairs were recruited from rural clinics in South Africa and were tested for antibodies against lytic and latent HHV-8 antigens. The prevalence of antibodies in children increased with increasing maternal antibody titer (lytic, chi 21=26, and P<.001; latent, chi 21=55, and P<.001). HHV-8 DNA was detectable in 145 of 978 maternal saliva samples (mean virus load, 488,450 copies/mL; range, 1550-660,000 copies/mL) and in 12 of 43 breast-milk samples (mean virus load, 5800 copies/mL; range, 1550-12,540 copies/mL). The prevalence of HHV-8 DNA in maternal saliva was unrelated to latent anti-HHV-8 antibody status but was higher in mothers with the highest titers of lytic antibodies than in other mothers (34% vs. 8%; P<.001). The prevalence of lytic anti-HHV-8 antibodies in children was 13% (70/528) if the mother did not have HHV-8 in saliva and was 29% (8/28) if the mother had a high HHV-8 load (>50,000 copies/mL) in saliva (odds ratio, 2.6; 95% confidence interval, 1.1-6.2). The presence of HHV-8 DNA in maternal saliva was unrelated to latent antibodies in children. Saliva could be a route of transmission of HHV-8 from person to person, although other routes cannot be ruled out.

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