Human herpesvirus-6, the etiologic agent of exanthem subitum, is a ubiquitous virus that infects almost all children by the age of 2 years and that has previously been shown to be neuroinvasive. These characteristics suggest that human herpesvirus-6 may be important in the neuropathogenesis of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) in children. To address this hypothesis, we evaluated postmortem pediatric brain tissues for the presence of human herpesvirus-6 infection. Using in situ hybridization with a digoxigenin-labeled DNA probe for the large tegument protein gene of human herpesvirus-6, we detected nuclear signals in postmortem brain tissue from 4/5 children with human immunodeficiency virus-1 encephalitis. Human herpesvirus-6 DNA was found in numerous oligodendrocytes of the white matter and less frequently in astrocytes, macrophages, microglia and neurons. The human herpesvirus-6 positive cells detected by in situ hybridization were not immunoreactive either for human herpesvirus-6 early nuclear phosphoproteins or for surface glycoproteins associated with productive infection. Only rare human herpesvirus-6 infected cells were found in age-matched control brain tissues. No human herpesvirus-6 infected cells were found in human fetal brain tissue. These data suggest that human herpesvirus-6 is more extensively disseminated in neural cells in the presence of human immunodeficiency infection and immunodeficiency in pediatric AIDS patients, and it may contribute to the pathogenesis of AIDS encephalopathy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience