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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2014 Feb;23(2):300-8. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-13-0730. Epub 2013 Dec 2.

Risk factors for early childhood infection of human herpesvirus-8 in Zambian children: the role of early childhood feeding practices.

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Authors' Affiliations: Nebraska Center for Virology and School of Biological Sciences, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska; Department of Pediatrics, University of California, San Francisco, California; Department of Pathobiology and Population Medicine, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, Mississippi; University of Zambia, School of Medicine and University Teaching Hospital, Zambia; and University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, Florida.



Human herpesvirus-8 (HHV-8) infection in early childhood is common throughout sub-Saharan Africa with prevalence increasing throughout childhood. Specific routes of transmission have not been clearly delineated, though HHV-8 is present in high concentrations in saliva.


To understand the horizontal transmission of HHV-8 within households to children, we enrolled for cross-sectional analysis, 251 households including 254 children, age two and under, in Lusaka, Zambia. For all children, plasma was screened for HHV-8 and HIV type I (HIV-1) and health and behavioral questionnaires were completed. Multilevel logistic regression analysis was conducted to assess independent factors for HHV-8 infection in children.


Risk factors for HHV-8 infection included increasing number of HHV-8-positive household members [OR = 2.5; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.9-3.3; P < 0.01] and having a primary caregiver who tested the temperature of food with their tongue before feeding the child (OR = 2.4; 95% CI, 1.93-3.30; P = 0.01). Breastfeeding was protective against infection with HHV-8 for children (OR = 0.3; 95% CI, 0.16-0.72; P < 0.01).


These results indicate that exposure to HHV-8 in the household increases risk for early childhood infection, with specific feeding behaviors likely playing a role in transmission.


Interventions to protect children from infection should emphasize the possibility of infection through sharing of foods.

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