Prospective Characterization of the Risk Factors for Transmission and Symptoms of Primary Human Herpesvirus Infections Among Ugandan Infants


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Abstract

Background. Human herpesvirus (HHV) infections are common during infancy. Primary infections are frequently asymptomatic and best studied prospectively by using direct viral detection.Methods. Oropharyngeal swab specimens were collected weekly from Ugandan newborn infants, their mothers, and other children in the household. Blood specimens were collected every 4 months. Samples were tested for herpes simplex virus (HSV) types 1 and 2, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), cytomegalovirus (CMV), HHV-6A, HHV-6B, and HHV-8, using quantitative polymerase chain reaction.Results. Thirty-two infants, 32 mothers, and 49 other household children were followed for a median of 57 weeks. Seventeen mothers had human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV) infection; no infants acquired HIV-1. The 12-month incidence of postnatal infection was 76% for HHV-6B, 59% for CMV, 47% for EBV, 8% for HSV-1, and 0% for HHV-8. The quantity of oropharyngeal shedding by contacts was associated with HHV-6A or HHV-6B transmission. Maternal HIV-1 infection was associated with EBV transmission, while breastfeeding and younger child contacts were associated with CMV transmission. Except for HSV-1, primary HHV infections were subclinical.Conclusions. By capturing exposures and acquisition events, we found that the incidence and risk factors of infection vary by HHV type. HSV-1 infection, unlike other HHV infections, caused acute clinical illness in these infants.

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