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Am J Pathol. 1991 Jun;138(6):1405-11.

Pneumonitis associated with coinfection by human herpesvirus 6 and Legionella in an immunocompetent adult.

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Department of Medicine, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee 53226.


The authors report a case of pneumonitis in a young healthy man caused by coinfection with human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) and Legionella pneumophila. The patient's course was complicated by severe respiratory, renal, hepatic, and central nervous system dysfunctions, which were believed to be primarily the results of his Legionella infection. Aggressive antibiotic treatment produced no response, and Legionella remained isolatable from lung tissue throughout several weeks of antimicrobial therapy. Human herpesvirus 6 was isolated from a sample of peripheral blood during the acute stage of the patient's illness, and numerous HHV-6--infected macrophages and lymphocytes were detected by immunohistochemical staining of biopsy-derived lung tissue. Paradoxically treatment of the patient with high-dose corticosteroids resulted in dramatic improvement of his condition, including clearance of the Legionella infection. The demonstration that corticosteroids efficiently inhibit HHV-6 replication in vitro suggests that the virus may have contributed to the patient's pneumonitis by enhancing tissue inflammation, by compromising the function of pulmonary macrophages, and, perhaps, by destroying the patient's CD4+ T lymphocytes. Human herpesvirus 6 may be able to function as a synergistic cofactor in lung infections by Legionella and other pathogens.

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