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Human herpes virus-6 infection in marrow graft recipients: Role in pathogenesis of graft-versus-host disease

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Andrew Pearson, Professor Archibald Malcolm, Professor Stephen Proctor, Dr Peter Hamilton, Professor Andrew Cant


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To investigate the hypothesis that target organ infection with human herpes virus-6 (HHV-6) exacerbates the clinical severity of GVHD, skin and rectal biopsies from 34 allogeneic bone marrow transplant (BMT) recipients and 23 comparative autologous recipients were studied. Biopsies and heparinised blood samples were obtained from all patients prior to and at regular intervals after BMT, and whenever GVHD was suspected. HHV-6 antigen was detected in cryostat sections by immunohistochemistry, and HHV-6 DNA in peripheral blood leucocytes (PBL) and biopsies by nested PCR. Twenty-eight (90%) of the 31 patients who engrafted developed clinical GVHD, which was mild in five, moderately severe in nine and severe in 14. Overall, HHV-6 DNA was detected in PBL in 74% of autologous recipients and 76% of allogeneic recipients, and in biopsy tissue in 48% of autos and 71% of allos. However, HHV-6 DNA was detected in skin and/or rectal biopsies more frequently in allogeneic recipients with severe GVHD (92%) than in those with either moderate (55%) or mild GVHD (22%), suggesting an association (P = 0.004) between HHV-6 DNA in biopsy tissue and GVHD severity. A significant linear trend (P = 0.03) was identified between detection of HHV-6 DNA in biopsy tissue obtained prior to or concomitant with the onset of GVHD and increased GVHD severity, suggesting that HHV-6 was causally linked to GVHD rather than reactivated as a consequence of GVHD therapy. Thus this study supports a role for HHV-6 in the initiation and/or exacerbation of GVHD, and suggests that the presence of HHV-6 DNA in the skin or rectum may be a factor in determining GVHD severity. If confirmed, these findings may have implications for the management of allogeneic BMT recipients.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Appleton, A. L., Sviland, L., Peiris, J. S. M., Taylor, C. E., Wilkes, J., Green, M. A., Pearson, A. D. J., Kelly, P. J., Malcolm, A. J., Proctor, S. J., Hamilton, P. J., Cant, A. J.

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Bone Marrow Transplantation

Year: 1995

Volume: 16

Issue: 6

Pages: 777-782

Print publication date: 01/12/1995

ISSN (print): 0268-3369

ISSN (electronic): 1476-5365