Prevalence of polyomavirus BK and JC infection and replication in 400 healthy blood donors

J Infect Dis. 2009 Mar 15;199(6):837-46. doi: 10.1086/597126.


Background: The replication of BK virus (BKV) and JC virus (JCV) is linked to polyomavirus-associated nephropathy, hemorrhagic cystitis, and multifocal leukoencephalopathy in immunodeficient patients, but the behavior of these viruses in immunocompetent individuals has hardly been characterized.

Methods: We used EIA to study samples obtained from 400 healthy blood donors aged 20-59 years for BKV- and JCV-specific antibodies against virus-like particles. We also studied BKV and JCV loads in plasma and urine among these individuals by use of real-time polymerase chain reaction.

Results: IgG seroprevalence was 82% (328 of 400 donors) for BKV and 58% (231 of400) for JCV. As age increased (age groups were divided by decade), the seroprevalence of BKV decreased from 87% (87 of 100) in the youngest group (aged 20-29 years) to 71% (71 of 100) in the oldest group (aged 50-59 years) (P = .006), whereas the seroprevalence of JCV increased from 50% (50 of 100) in the youngest group to 68% (68 of 100) in the oldest group (P = .06). Asymptomatic urinary shedding of BKV and JCV was observed in 28 (7%) and 75 (19%) of 400 subjects, respectively, with median viral loads of 3.51 and 4.64 log copies/mL, respectively (P < .001). Unlike urinary BKV loads, urinary JCV loads were positively correlated with IgG levels. The shedding of JCV was more commonly observed among individuals who were seropositive only for JCV, compared with individuals who were seropositive for both BKV and JCV, suggesting limited cross-protection from BKV immunity. Noncoding control regions were of archetype architecture in all cases, except for 1 rearranged JCV variant. Neither BKV nor JCV DNA was detected in plasma.

Conclusions: Our study provides important data about polyomavirus infection and replication in healthy, immunocompetent individuals. These data indicate significant differences between BKV and JCV with respect to virus-host interaction and epidemiology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • BK Virus* / genetics
  • BK Virus* / physiology
  • Blood Donors*
  • Capsid Proteins / genetics
  • Capsid Proteins / immunology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • JC Virus* / genetics
  • JC Virus* / physiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Polyomavirus Infections / diagnosis
  • Polyomavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Switzerland
  • Urine / virology
  • Virus Replication*
  • Young Adult


  • Capsid Proteins