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J Med Virol. 2010 May;82(6):1007-11. doi: 10.1002/jmv.21748.

No evidence of family history as a risk factor for herpes zoster in patients with post-herpetic neuralgia.

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Department of Surgery, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy.


Little is known about reactivation of latent varicella zoster virus as herpes zoster in individuals with no underlying immunosuppression. Risk factors include age, sex, ethnicity, exogenous boosting of immunity from varicella contacts, underlying cell-mediated immune disorders, mechanical trauma, psychological stress, and immunotoxin exposure. An association between herpes zoster and family history of zoster has been proposed. A case-control study involving patients affected by post-herpetic neuralgia, which usually follows more severe acute herpes zoster, was performed. The patients with post-herpetic neuralgia were enrolled at the Pain Clinic of the Policlinico Tor Vergata in Rome, Italy, within 1 year from the onset of acute zoster. The controls matched for sex and age were chosen among healthy subjects without a history of herpes zoster presenting at the Internal Medicine Outpatient Clinic for hypertension in the same time period. All the participants in the study gave informed consent and were interviewed by medically trained and blinded investigators using a questionnaire. Similar proportions of the patients and the controls reported a family history of herpes zoster irrespective of the degree of relationship, i.e., 17.4% and 18.2%, respectively, by analyzing only the first-degree relatives [RR 1.03 (CI 95%: 0.78-1.37)], and 28.4% and 29.6%, respectively, by analyzing the total number of relatives [RR 1.03 (CI 95%: 0.81-1.31)]. Further and larger prospective cohort studies are needed to ascertain whether a family history of herpes zoster is really an independent predictor of zoster in different geographical settings.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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