Today the human polyomavirus (HPyV) family consists of 10 members, BK virus (BKV) and JC virus (JCV) isolated 40 years ago and the more recently identified KI virus (KIPyV), WU virus (WUPyV), Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV), HPyV6, HPyV7, trichodysplasia spinulosa virus (TSPyV), HPyV9 and MWPyV. Serological studies suggest that HPyVs subclinically infect the general population with rates ranging from 35% to 90%. However, significant disease is only observed in patients with impaired immune functions. Thus, BKV has been linked to hemorrhagic cystitis (HC) after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation and PyV-associated nephropathy (PyVAN) after kidney transplantation; JCV to progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) in HIV-AIDS, hematological diseases and in autoimmune diseases treated with certain lymphocyte-specific antibodies. KIPyV and WUPyV have been found in the respiratory tract, HPyV6 and 7 in the skin, and HPyV9 in serum and skin, and MWPyV in stools and skin, but so far none of these PyVs have been linked to any disease. TSPyV, on the other hand, was identified in trichodysplasia spinulosa, a rare skin disease characterized by virus-induced lytic as well as proliferative tumor-like features that is observed in immune-suppressed transplant patients. In contrast to all the other HPyVs so far, MCPyV is unique in its association with a cancer, Merkel cell carcinoma, which is a rare skin cancer arising in the elderly and chronically immunosuppressed individuals. The discovery of the new HPyVs has revived interest in the Polyomaviridae and their association to human disease and cancer. In this review, we summarize knowledge about this expanding family of human pathogens.
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