High human herpesvirus 6 viral load in pediatric allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant patients is associated with detection in end organs and high mortality
Human Herpes Virus 6 (HHV-6) reactivation occurs in approximately half of patients following allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT). While encephalitis and delayed engraftment are well-documented complications of HHV-6 following HSCT, the extent to which HHV-6 viremia causes disease in children is controversial. We performed a retrospective review of HHV-6 reactivation and possible manifestations in pediatric allogeneic HSCT patients at a single institution. Of 89 children and young adults who underwent allogeneic HSCT over a three-and-a-half-year period, 34 patients reactivated HHV-6 early post-transplant. Unrelated donor stem cell source and lack of antiviral prophylaxis were risk factors for the development of HHV-6 viremia. Viremia correlated with the presence of acute graft-versus-host disease, but not chronic graft-versus-host disease. We identified two subgroups within the viremic patients—a high-risk viremic and tissue-positive group that reactivated HHV-6 and had suspected end-organ disease and a low-risk viremic but asymptomatic group that reactivated HHV-6 but did not exhibit symptoms or signs of end-organ disease. Peak viral load was found to be strongly associated with mortality. Prospective studies in larger numbers of patients are needed to further investigate the role of HHV-6 in causing symptomatic end-organ disease as well as the association of viral load with mortality.