Human parvovirus B19 (B19V) is a small (22-24 nm) nonenveloped DNA virus belonging to the genus Erythrovirus (family Parvoviridae). Although it generally causes self-limiting conditions in healthy people, B19V infection may have a different outcome in patients with inherited hemolytic anemias. In such high-risk individuals, the high-titer replication may result in bone marrow suppression, triggering a life-threatening drop of hemoglobin values (profound anemia, aplastic crisis). To date there is no consensus concerning a B19V screening program either for the blood donations used in the hemotherapy or for high-risk patients. Moreover, questions such as the molecular mechanisms by which B19V produces latency and persistent replication, the primary site (sites) of B19V infection and B19V immunopathology are far from being known. This review summarizes general aspects of B19V molecular characteristics, pathogenesis and diagnostic approaches with a focus on the role of this pathogen in blood transfusions and in patients with some hemoglobinopathies (sickle-cell disease, thalassemia).
© 2011 Federation of European Microbiological Societies. Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved.