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Kaposis sarcoma-associated herpesvirus causes no negative health effects in hiv-negative individuals, find University of Pittsburgh researchers

PITTSBURGH, April 9 New research at the University of Pittsburgh shows that a recently discovered herpesvirus, which often leads to Kaposis sarcoma in HIV-positive individuals, has no negative effect on healthy HIV-negative adults. The study is published in the April 15 issue of Blood, a journal of the American Society of Hematology.

Researchers at the Graduate School of Public Health found that human herpesvirus 8 (HHV8), often a precursor to the blood vessel cancer Kaposis sarcoma (KS) in HIV-positive adults, causes no symptoms or only a mild flu-like illness in healthy adults without HIV, and has no negative effects on their immune systems.

"This is the first study to unravel the natural history of primary HHV8 infection in the absence of underlying HIV infection or organ transplantation," said lead author Charles Rinaldo, Ph.D., professor of pathology and infectious diseases and microbiology. "Knowing how HIV-negative, otherwise healthy individuals respond to this virus in terms of symptoms and immune responses is important in preventing related diseases."

In a previous study, Dr. Rinaldo showed that people who are infected with HIV have a poor immune response to HHV8, which he says is likely the reason they are at high risk of contracting KS. This type of cancer can be very aggressive in HIV-infected individuals and in organ transplant recipients; a milder, rare form of KS occurs in some older men.

"Our current study shows that healthy adults produce T cells and antibodies that we believe control the first-time HHV8 infection," said Dr. Rinaldo. "The only signs of disease that we see, if any, are transient, flu-like symptoms." Like all herpesviruses, HHV8 remains, but in a latent form, after the initial infection.

In addition, the study demonstrates that HHV8 infection causes no negative changes in a patients immune system, which is not the case with other, similar herpesviruses such as Epstein-Barr vir
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Contact: Kathryn Duda
dudak@msx.upmc.edu
412-624-2607
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
9-Apr-2001


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