Primary human herpesvirus 8 infection in immunocompetent children

JAMA. 2002 Mar 13;287(10):1295-300. doi: 10.1001/jama.287.10.1295.


Context: Human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8) infection causes Kaposi sarcoma and lymphoproliferative disorders in immunosuppressed adults. Its manifestations in immunocompetent hosts are unknown.

Objectives: To determine whether HHV-8 primary infection is symptomatic in immunocompetent children and to identify the epidemiological and virological correlates of HHV-8 infection.

Design and setting: Prospective cohort study conducted in the pediatric emergency department of a hospital in Alexandria, Egypt, between December 1, 1999, and April 30, 2000.

Patients: Eighty-six children aged 1 to 4 years who were evaluated for a febrile syndrome of undetermined origin.

Main outcome measures: Serological assay and polymerase chain reaction of blood and saliva samples for HHV-8. Information on potential risk factors for HHV-8 infection was also collected.

Results: Thirty-six children (41.9%) were seropositive; HHV-8 DNA sequences were detected in 14 (38.9%) of these 36 children (detected in saliva in 11 of 14). Significant associations were found between HHV-8 infection and close contact with at least 2 other children in the community (36 of 63 vs 6 of 23 for <2 children; adjusted odds ratio [OR], 3.50; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.11-12.22) and admission to the emergency department in December or January (28 of 47 vs 14 of 39 for February-April; adjusted OR, 3.15; 95% CI, 1.23-8.58). Six children had suspected primary HHV-8 infection; all but 1 had a febrile cutaneous craniocaudal maculopapular rash, which was more common among these children (5 of 6 vs 10 of 75; P<.001). For 3 of these 6 children, a second blood sample was obtained after the convalescence phase, and all 3 seroconverted for HHV-8.

Conclusions: Primary infection with HHV-8 may be associated with a febrile maculopapular skin rash among immunocompetent children. The finding of HHV-8 DNA sequences in saliva supports the hypothesis that transmission through saliva is the main mode of transmission in the pediatric age group.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • DNA, Viral / analysis
  • Female
  • Fever of Unknown Origin / complications
  • Fever of Unknown Origin / etiology
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Herpesviridae Infections / diagnosis
  • Herpesviridae Infections / epidemiology*
  • Herpesviridae Infections / immunology
  • Herpesvirus 8, Human / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Immunocompetence*
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Risk Factors
  • Saliva / virology
  • Skin Diseases, Vesiculobullous / complications


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • DNA, Viral