Human herpesvirus type 8 DNA sequences in biological samples of HIV-positive and negative individuals in Sicily


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Abstract

Objective:To evaluate the circulation of a new human herpesvirus (HHV), HHV-8 or Kaposi's sarcoma (KS)-associated herpesvirus in a geographical area where a high incidence rate of classical KS was already present before the appearance of the AIDS epidemic.Design and methods:The study was carried out by analysing: (i) bioptic samples from classic, AIDS-associated KS, and controls; (ii) peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from classic KS, HIV-positive subjects with and without KS and healthy HIV-negative individuals; (iii) semen samples from heterosexual HIV-positive and HIV-negative individuals affected or not by KS; and (iv) cervical swabs from HIV-negative healthy heterosexual females. All specimens were tested for the presence of HHV-8 DNA sequences by a two-step polymerase chain reaction.Results:Positive results were obtained in 90% of bioptic samples of classic KS and in 100% of AIDS-associated KS. Viral sequences were also present in 50% of PBMC of subjects with classic KS and AIDS-associated KS, in 10% of AIDS patients without the angiosarcoma, and in 11% of healthy HIV-negative individuals. Finally, HHV-8 DNA was detected in 13% of semen of HIV-negative heterosexual individuals and in 10% of AIDS patients without KS. Both PBMC and ejaculates from the same individual gave positive results. No HHV-8 sequences were found in cervical swabs.Conclusions:HHV-8 is widespread in the general population in Sicily since it was detected in PBMC and semen of heterosexual HIV-negative individuals and is not found only in high-risk groups. The viral load appears to be more elevated in a high-risk population and it may be ascribed to a viral reactivation. The higher incidence rates of KS in Sicily compared with northern Italy and other European countries might be related to the presence of HHV-8 in the general population.

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