Evidence of SV40 infections in hospitalized children

Hum Pathol. 1999 Dec;30(12):1496-502. doi: 10.1016/s0046-8177(99)90173-9.


Simian virus 40 (SV40) is known to have contaminated poliovirus vaccines used between 1955 and 1963. Accumulating reports have described the presence of SV40 DNA in human tumors and normal tissues, although the significance of human infections by SV40 is unknown. We investigated whether unselected hospitalized children had evidence of SV40 infections and whether any clinical correlations were apparent. Serum samples were examined for SV40 neutralizing antibody using a specific plaque reduction test; of 337 samples tested, 20 (5.9%) had antibody to SV40. Seropositivity increased with age and was significantly associated with kidney transplants (6 of 15 [40%] positive, P < .001). Many of the antibody-positive patients had impaired immune systems. Molecular assays (polymerase chain reaction and DNA sequence analysis) on archival tissue specimens confirmed the presence of SV40 DNA in 4 of the antibody-positive patients. This study, using 2 independent assays, shows the presence of SV40 infections in children born after 1980. We conclude that SV40 causes natural infections in humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • DNA, Viral / analysis
  • Female
  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Kidney Transplantation
  • Male
  • Papillomavirus Infections / diagnosis
  • Papillomavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Polyomavirus / immunology
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Simian virus 40* / genetics
  • Simian virus 40* / immunology
  • Tumor Virus Infections / diagnosis
  • Tumor Virus Infections / epidemiology*


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • DNA, Viral