Detection of varicella-zoster virus DNA in human geniculate ganglia by polymerase chain reaction

J Infect Dis. 1992 Nov;166(5):1157-9. doi: 10.1093/infdis/166.5.1157.


Latent varicella-zoster virus (VZV) has been demonstrated in the human trigeminal and thoracic ganglia by means of nucleic acid hybridization. However, the human geniculate ganglia in VZV latency have not been examined. Tissue DNA extracted from the trigeminal and geniculate ganglia of a newborn and 7 adults was examined by polymerase chain reaction with a pair of VZV-specific primers. None had symptoms of recent infection with VZV (chickenpox or shingles). VZV DNA was detected in 11 (79%) of 14 trigeminal ganglia and in 9 (69%) of 13 geniculate ganglia of the adults. VZV DNA was not detected in either type of ganglion from the newborn or from 1 adult who was seronegative for VZV antibodies. These findings indicate that VZV becomes latent in human geniculate ganglia after primary infection and suggest the possibility that reactivation of the virus from the geniculate ganglia may cause Ramsay Hunt syndrome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Viral / analysis
  • Autopsy
  • Base Sequence
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • DNA, Viral / analysis*
  • DNA, Viral / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Geniculate Ganglion / microbiology*
  • Geniculate Ganglion / pathology
  • Herpesvirus 3, Human / genetics
  • Herpesvirus 3, Human / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Restriction Mapping
  • Tubulin / genetics


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • DNA, Viral
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides
  • Tubulin