Sexual Transmission and the Natural History of Human Herpesvirus 8 Infection


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Abstract

BackgroundAlthough human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8) has been suspected to be the etiologic agent of Kaposi's sarcoma, little is known about its seroprevalence in the population, its modes of transmission, and its natural history.MethodsThe San Francisco Men's Health Study, begun in 1984, is a study of a population-based sample of men in an area with a high incidence of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. We studied all 400 men infected at base line with HIV and a sample of 400 uninfected men. Base-line serum samples were assayed for antibodies to HHV-8 latency-associated nuclear antigen (anti-LANA). In addition to the seroprevalence and risk factors for anti-LANA seropositivity, we analyzed the time to the development of Kaposi's sarcoma.ResultsAnti-LANA antibodies were found in 223 of 593 men (37.6 percent) who reported any homosexual activity in the previous five years and in none of 195 exclusively heterosexual men. Anti-LANA seropositivity correlated with a history of sexually transmitted diseases and had a linear association with the number of male sexual-intercourse partners. Among the men who were infected with both HIV and HHV-8 at base line, the 10-year probability of Kaposi's sarcoma was 49.6 percent. Base-line anti-LANA seropositivity preceded and was independently associated with subsequent Kaposi's sarcoma, even after adjustment for CD4 cell counts and the number of homosexual partners.ConclusionsThe prevalence of HHV-8 infection is high among homosexual men, correlates with the number of homosexual partners, and is temporally and independently associated with Kaposi's sarcoma. These observations are further evidence that HHV-8 has an etiologic role in Kaposi's sarcoma and is sexually transmitted among men. (N Engl J Med 1998;338:948-54.)

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