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J Clin Microbiol. 2007 Dec;45(12):3972-8. Epub 2007 Oct 17.

Detection and typing of human herpesvirus 6 by molecular methods in specimens from patients diagnosed with encephalitis or meningitis.

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Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health, Albany, NY, USA.


Human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) was detected in specimens from patients hospitalized with symptoms of encephalitis or meningitis. A real-time PCR assay was developed which has a linear dynamic range of 5 to 5 x 10(6) copies of HHV-6 and a sensitivity of five gene copies per reaction. While the assay detects both subtypes, HHV-6A and HHV-6B, it is specific and does not cross-react with a selected specificity panel. A total of 1,482 patient specimens, which were collected between 2003 and 2007, were tested; 26 specimens from 24 patients were found to be positive for HHV-6 by real-time PCR. The HHV-6 detection rate in this population was therefore 1.75%. The majority of the specimens tested (>95%) were cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) specimens. We were able to type 20 of the 26 positive specimens by conventional PCR and sequence analysis; all were HHV-6B. Forty-two percent of the patients were 3 years of age or younger, which may indicate a primary infection in these patients. Given the ages of the remaining patients (from 4 to 81 years), their infections were most probably due to virus reactivations. Where information was available, symptoms of patients included fever (71%), altered mental status (67%), and abnormal CSF profile (75%). Fifty percent of patients of 3 years of age or younger suffered from seizures. The detection of HHV-6 in specimens from patients diagnosed with encephalitis or meningitis, in the absence of a positive PCR result for other agents, strongly suggests a role for HHV-6 in the pathogenesis of these central nervous system diseases.

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