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N Engl J Med. 1998 Nov 5;339(19):1358-63.

Transmission of human herpesvirus 8 infection from renal-transplant donors to recipients.

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Institute for Medical Microbiology, University of Basel, Switzerland.



Human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8) has been detected in all forms of Kaposi's sarcoma, including transplantation-associated Kaposi's sarcoma. To investigate the possibility of transmission of HHV-8 through allografts, we measured the seroprevalence of HHV-8 before and after renal transplantation.


Using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay with the recombinant HHV-8 protein orf 65.2, we analyzed serum samples from 220 renal-transplant recipients for the presence of antibodies to HHV-8 on the day of transplantation and one year later. Positive results were confirmed by an indirect immunofluorescence assay that detects antibodies to latent antigen and by Western blotting. Follow-up lasted at least four years.


The seroprevalence of HHV-8 in graft recipients increased from 6.4 percent on the day of transplantation to 17.7 percent one year after transplantation. Seroconversion occurred within the first year after transplantation in 25 patients, and Kaposi's sarcoma developed in 2 of them within 26 months after transplantation. Sequential serum samples were obtained from 10 of the patients with seroconversion, and in 8 of these patients, IgM antibodies to HHV-8 appeared within three months after transplantation. In the case of six patients who seroconverted, serum samples from the donors were available, and five (83 percent) tested positive for HHV-8. In a control group of eight patients who were seronegative at the time of transplantation and who received allografts from HHV-8-negative donors, none seroconverted within the year after transplantation.


HHV-8 is transmitted through renal allografts and is a risk factor for transplantation-associated Kaposi's sarcoma.

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