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J Bone Joint Surg Br. 2011 Sep;93(9):1253-8. doi: 10.1302/0301-620X.93B9.27002.

Herpes virus infection can cause intervertebral disc degeneration: a causal relationship?

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University of Crete, Department of Orthopaedics and Trauma, Faculty of Medicine, Heraklion, Crete 71003, Greece.


It has been proposed that intervertebral disc degeneration might be caused by low-grade infection. The purpose of the present study was to assess the incidence of herpes viruses in intervertebral disc specimens from patients with lumbar disc herniation. A polymerase chain reaction based assay was applied to screen for the DNA of eight different herpes viruses in 16 patients and two controls. DNA of at least one herpes virus was detected in 13 specimens (81.25%). Herpes Simplex Virus type-1 (HSV-1) was the most frequently detected virus (56.25%), followed by Cytomegalovirus (CMV) (37.5%). In two patients, co-infection by both HSV-1 and CMV was detected. All samples, including the control specimens, were negative for Herpes Simplex Virus type-2, Varicella Zoster Virus, Epstein Barr Virus, Human Herpes Viruses 6, 7 and 8. The absence of an acute infection was confirmed both at the serological and mRNA level. To our knowledge this is the first unequivocal evidence of the presence of herpes virus DNA in intervertebral disc specimens of patients with lumbar disc herniation suggesting the potential role of herpes viruses as a contributing factor to the pathogenesis of degenerative disc disease.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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