Human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) DNA was detected in peripheral blood from exanthem subitum patients during the acute and convalescent phases of infection using the polymerase chain reaction. Although DNA could be detected in non-adherent and adherent mononuclear cells during the acute phase, it was detected predominantly in adherent cells during the convalescent phase; furthermore, viral DNA was found in adherent cells of healthy adults. When adherent mononuclear cells were cultured in vitro, virus was found to replicate well in differentiated cells cultured for 7 days in vitro before infection. When cells were cultured for more than 1 month, no detectable antigen and no evidence of virus growth was observed, but viral DNA could be detected. These apparently latently infected monocytes were treated with phorbol ester, after which virus could be recovered from the cultures. Therefore, we have developed an in vitro latency system for HHV-6; our results suggest that HHV-6 may latently infect monocytes in vivo and in vitro and that it may be reactivated in cells by some factors.