Varicella zoster virus and large vessel vasculitis, the absence of an association

Gary W. Procop, Charis Eng, Alison Clifford, Alexandra Villa-Forte, Leonard H. Calabrese, Eric Roselli, Lars Svensson, Douglas Johnston, Gosta Pettersson, Edward Soltesz, Lisa Lystad, Julian D. Perry, Alexander Blandford, Deborah A. Wilson, Gary S. Hoffman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Objective: It is controversial whether microorganisms play a role in the pathogenesis of large and medium vessel vasculitides (eg, giant cell arteritis [GCA], Takayasu arteritis [TAK] and focal idio-pathic aortitis [FIA]). Recent studies have reported the presence of Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV) within formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded temporal arteries and aortas of about three-quarters or more of patients with these conditions, and in a minority of controls. In a prospective study, we sought to confirm these findings using DNA extracted from vessels that were harvested under surgically aseptic conditions and snap frozen. Methods and Results: DNA samples extracted from 11 surgically sterile temporal arteries and 31 surgically sterile thoracic aortas were used in an attempt to identify the vessel-associated VZV ge-nome. Two different validated PCR methods were used. Thirty-one thoracic aorta aneurysm specimens included biopsies from 8 patients with GCA, 2 from patients with TAK, 6 from patients with FIA, and 15 from patients without vasculitis, who had non-inflammatory aneurysms. Eleven temporal artery biopsies were collected from 5 patients with GCA and 6 controls. The presence of VZV was not identified in either the specimens from patients with large vessel vasculitis or from the controls. Conclusions: Using surgically sterile snap-frozen specimens, we were unable to confirm recent reports of the presence of VZV in either aortas or temporal arteries from patients with large vessel vasculitis or controls.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)228-238
Number of pages11
JournalPathogens and Immunity
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2017


  • Aorta and temporal artery biopsies
  • Large Vessel Vasculitis
  • Varicella Zoster Virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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