Persistence of human herpesvirus 6 according to site and variant: Possible greater neurotropism of variant A

Caroline Breese Hall*, Mary T. Caserta, Kenneth C. Schnabel, Christine Long, Leon G. Epstein, Richard A. Insel, Stephen Dewhurst

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

139 Scopus citations


Little is known of the persistence and pathogenicity of human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) after primary infection, including the role of strain variant. Over 2 to 5 years, 2,716 children and 149 families were studied. Peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC), saliva and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) specimens were examined for HHV-6 DNA and variant. Ninety-nine percent of isolates causing primary infection were HHV-6 variant B (HHV-6B), which predominated in 95%-98% of the variants persisting in PBMC and saliva specimens from children and adults. Of 668 CSF samples, 13% contained HHV-6 DNA; of 77 children examined after primary infection, 61% had HHV-6 DNA detected only in their CSF and 39% had HHV-6 DNA in both CSF and PBMCs. HHV- 6 variant A (HHV-6A) was detected significantly (P = .0001) more frequently in CSF than in PBMCs or saliva. In children for whom HHV-6 was identified in both CSF and PBMCs, PBMCs contained only HHV-6B, while CSF contained HHV-6A or HHV-6B, not both. Thus, in patients with dual infection, only HHV-6A persisted in CSF, which suggests that HHV-6A has greater neurotropism. Findings for adults indicate that dual infection occurs; variant persistence is similar to that for children. The frequency of HHV-6A infection increased little with age, thereby indicating that HHV-6A infection remains uncommon into adulthood. This study suggests that HHV-6 variants have different immunobiologic courses and neurotropism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)132-137
Number of pages6
JournalClinical Infectious Diseases
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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