Background: In 1994 human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8) was identified as the causative agent of Kaposi's sarcoma (KS). Moreover, the crucial role of HLA molecules in determining susceptibility to several infections was recognized.
Objectives: To evaluate the influence of HLA-DRB1 polymorphism in KS susceptibility among HHV-8 infected AIDS patients.
Design: A matched case-control study was designed to identify possible biological and environmental risk factors for HIV associated KS. Cases were defined as any AIDS patient with a clinical diagnosis of KS and controls as any AIDS patient with an indicative disease other than KS or with CD4 cells counts < 200 x 10 cells/l, diagnosed at +/- 4 months after case diagnosis. Each case was matched with two controls by sex, age and transmission category.
Methods: HHV-8 serostatus was determined by immunofluorescence assay for the latency associated antigen encoded by Orf73, ELISA for Orf73 and ELISA for the lytic antigen Orf65. DRB1 typing was carried out with a commercially available PCR-sequence specific primer assay.
Results: Comparison of marker frequencies in HHV-8 infected AIDS patients with or without KS showed a positive association between KS and HLA-DRB1 alleles containing phenylalanine at position 13 [odds ratio (OR), 2.24; P = 0.016]. A negative association was observed when the residue at the same position was glycine (OR, 0.16; P = 0.009).
Conclusion: These observations suggest a possible role for HLA-DRB1 in the development of KS in HHV-8 infected individuals with HIV co-infection. Progression to KS in HHV-8 infected AIDS patients may also depend on host factors controlling the immune response.