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Biol Blood Marrow Transplant. 2005 Jul;11(7):530-41.

Quantitative detection and differentiation of human herpesvirus 6 subtypes in bone marrow transplant patients by using a single real-time polymerase chain reaction assay.

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Department of Molecular Diagnostic research, Viracor Laboratories, Lee's summit, Missouri 64086, USA.


Human herpesvirus (HHV)--6 infections are ubiquitous, but infection or reactivation under immunocompromised conditions, such as bone marrow or solid organ transplantation, can often result in serious clinical manifestations. Two HHV-6 subtypes are known. Most primary HHV-6 infections are caused by subtype 6B, but little information is available about the prevalence, distribution, and clinical divergence of 6A and 6B. To study this, we have developed a highly sensitive and specific real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay that can detect, quantitate, and reliably differentiate HHV-6A and -6B in clinical specimens. Exploiting a single-base variation in the DNA polymerase gene of these respective subtypes, we used melting curve analysis for subtype discrimination. Moreover, this assay's ability to discriminate HHV-6 subtypes was confirmed by PCR/restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis of the HHV-6 large tegument protein gene and PCR amplicon size-discrimination analysis of the HHV-6 immediate-early gene. Using this assay, we present our findings about the prevalence and distribution of these subtypes in bone marrow transplant patients. Of 803 plasma specimens tested from 353 patients, 136 specimens (17%) from 60 patients were determined to be HHV-6 positive. We analyzed these HHV-6--positive patients for subtype identification by using our newly developed assay and determined that 58 patients (97%) were HHV-6B positive and 2 patients (3%) were HHV-6A positive. No patient was coinfected with both subtypes. This assay can be a sensitive, genotype-specific, rapid method to reliably diagnose life-threatening HHV-6 infections in immunocompromised patients and can be useful in guiding and monitoring specific therapy.

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