Infectious human herpesvirus 8 in a healthy North American blood donor

David J. Blackbourn, John Ambroziak, Evelyne Lennette, Melanie Adams, Bineetha Ramachandran, Jay A. Levy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

152 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Molecular studies have provided strong evidence for the association of human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8) with Kaposi's sarcoma. These data have been supported by serological studies, which have also suggested that HHV-8 can be found in the healthy population. We report the presence of infectious HHV-8 in a healthy donor to a North American blood bank. Methods: We examined the peripheral blood mononuclear cells or CD19 cells of blood donors by PCR for evidence of HHV-8 infection. The CD19 cells were separated from peripheral blood mononuclear cells by immunomagnetic-bead selection. To enhance detection of HHV-8, the CD19 cells from eleven unsystematically selected blood donors were activated with phorbol ester and recombinant interleukin-6; the culture fluid was filtered and inoculated onto HHV-8-negative target CD19 cells that had been prepared from phytohaemagglutinin-stimulated peripheral blood mononuclear cells. These inoculated target cells were cultured for 3 days and then analysed for HHV-8 sequences by PCR. Serum samples were tested for antibodies to HHV-8 by an indirect immunofluorescence assay. Findings: One blood donor was consistently found to be infected with HHV-8 by PCR after the cell-culture activation procedure. He was seropositive for the virus. The HHV-8 recovered was infectious, as shown by a reverse-transcription-PCR technique that detected HHV-8 RNA in the inoculated target cells. Interpretation: These data provide the first indication that HHV-8 can be recovered from the blood of a healthy individual, a blood donor, and that the virus is infectious. This observation suggests that HHV-8 could be transmitted by blood transfusion, a possibility that merits further study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)609-611
Number of pages3
Issue number9052
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 1997


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