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Cell Host Microbe. 2010 Jun 25;7(6):509-15. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2010.05.006.

Merkel cell polyomavirus and two previously unknown polyomaviruses are chronically shed from human skin.

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  • 1Tumor Virus Molecular Biology Section, Laboratory of Cellular Oncology, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD 20892-4263, USA.


Mounting evidence indicates that Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCV), a circular double-stranded DNA virus, is a causal factor underlying a highly lethal form of skin cancer known as Merkel cell carcinoma. To explore the possibility that MCV and other polyomaviruses commonly inhabit healthy human skin, we developed an improved rolling circle amplification (RCA) technique to isolate circular DNA viral genomes from human skin swabs. Complete MCV genomes were recovered from 40% of healthy adult volunteers tested, providing full-length, apparently wild-type cloned MCV genomes. RCA analysis also identified two previously unknown polyomavirus species that we name human polyomavirus-6 (HPyV6) and HPyV7. Biochemical experiments show that polyomavirus DNA is shed from the skin in the form of assembled virions. A pilot serological study indicates that infection or coinfection with these three skin-tropic polyomaviruses is very common. Thus, at least three polyomavirus species are constituents of the human skin microbiome.

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