Laboratory diagnosis of human herpesvirus 8 infection in humans

Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 2002 Dec;21(12):831-44. doi: 10.1007/s10096-002-0836-8. Epub 2002 Dec 11.


Human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8) is causally associated with Kaposi's sarcoma, primary effusion lymphoma and multicentric Castleman's disease. Serological and molecular biology assays are used to investigate the biology of this virus in different populations and diseases. Serological assays are mainly used to study the prevalence of the viral infection and to predict the diagnosis of Kaposi's sarcoma and other HHV-8-associated cancers. The appearance of antibodies against lytic antigens precedes the appearance of antibodies against latent antigens, probably explaining the lower sensitivity of assays based on latent HHV-8 antigens. The lack of international reference serum panels is presently the major bottleneck for further progress in the field of HHV-8 serology. Molecular biological assays are an absolute requirement for both the diagnosis and the follow-up of HHV-8 infection. Qualitative methods have been particularly useful to elucidate the mode of transmission and the causal association between HHV-8 and HHV-8-associated diseases. Quantitative methods have become an essential tool to monitor the progression of the infection and the effects of antiviral therapies. This review analyzes the performance of the different serological and molecular biological assays available at present. The main conclusion is that more research is needed to define the most useful laboratory tests for the diagnosis of HHV-8 infection and to establish the clinical role of such tests.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Herpesviridae Infections / diagnosis*
  • Herpesviridae Infections / epidemiology
  • Herpesviridae Infections / microbiology
  • Herpesvirus 8, Human* / isolation & purification
  • Herpesvirus 8, Human* / physiology
  • Humans
  • Molecular Diagnostic Techniques / methods*
  • Molecular Diagnostic Techniques / standards
  • Sensitivity and Specificity