Latency of varicella zoster virus in dorsal root, cranial, and enteric ganglia in vaccinated children

Trans Am Clin Climatol Assoc. 2012:123:17-33; discussion 33-5.


Despite vaccination, varicella-zoster virus (VZV) remains an important pathogen. We investigated VZV latency in autopsy specimens from vaccinees, in gastrointestinal tissue removed surgically, and in a guinea pig model. We propose that retrograde transport from infected skin and viremia deliver VZV to neurons in which it becomes latent. Wild type (WT) VZV was found to be latent in many ganglia of vaccinated children with no history of varicella, suggesting that subclinical infection with WT-VZV occurs with subsequent viremic dissemination. The 30% to 40% rate of WT-VZV zoster reported in vaccinees and occasional trigeminal zoster due to vaccine type VZV (vOka) are consistent with viremic delivery of VZV to multiple ganglia. Most human intestinal specimens contained latent VZV within neurons of the enteric nervous system (ENS). Induction of viremia in guinea pigs led to VZV latency throughout the ENS. The possibility VZV reactivation in the ENS is an unsuspected cause of gastrointestinal disease requires future investigation.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Animals
  • Autopsy
  • Chickenpox / blood
  • Chickenpox / prevention & control*
  • Chickenpox / virology
  • Chickenpox Vaccine / administration & dosage*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cranial Nerves / pathology
  • Cranial Nerves / virology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Enteric Nervous System / pathology
  • Enteric Nervous System / virology*
  • Female
  • Ganglia, Spinal / pathology
  • Ganglia, Spinal / virology*
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / physiopathology
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / virology
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Herpesvirus 3, Human / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • RNA, Viral / blood
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Viremia / blood
  • Viremia / virology
  • Virus Latency / physiology*


  • Chickenpox Vaccine
  • RNA, Viral