Role of the environment in the transmission of JC virus

J Neurovirol. 2003;9 Suppl 1:54-8. doi: 10.1080/13550280390195306.


JC virus is etiologically associated with a fatal demyelinating disease known as PML. JCV produces persistent infections in the kidney and is excreted in the urine of healthy individuals and in the urine of PML patients. The characteristics of the JCV excreted in the environment have been studied by analyzing sewage samples from divergent geographical areas. The intergenic region of JCV strains detected in the sewage of Barcelona (Spain), Umeå (Sweden), Nancy (France), Pretoria (South Africa), Patras (Greece), Cairo (Egypt), Washington, D.C. (USA), and diverse areas of Northern India has been sequenced, and the phylogenetic analysis showed their relationships with JCV strains previously described in urine or clinical samples in these geographic areas. The JCV regulatory region of the JCV DNA detected in sewage presented archetypal or archetypal-like regulatory regions with the exception of one of the twenty clones obtained from a sewage sample of the area of Washington, D.C. that presented a tandem repeated structure. Infectivity studies showed that archetypal JCV present in the urine of a pregnant woman productively infected SVG cells. Also JC viral particles showed considerable stability in sewage at 20 degrees C and in front of treatments with acidic pH and trypsin. The high prevalence of JCV in urine and in sewage and the stability of the viral particles observed suggests that contaminated water, food, and fomites could be the vehicles of JCV transmission through the oral route. Virions partially degraded or noninfectious could be a source of JCV DNA and may represent an additional mechanism of entry of viral genes into cells.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Environment
  • Humans
  • JC Virus / genetics*
  • JC Virus / growth & development*
  • Leukoencephalopathy, Progressive Multifocal / transmission*
  • Leukoencephalopathy, Progressive Multifocal / virology*
  • Phylogeny
  • Sewage / virology


  • Sewage