Reactivation of human polyomaviruses in immunocompromised states

J Neurovirol. 2014 Feb;20(1):1-8. doi: 10.1007/s13365-014-0234-x. Epub 2014 Jan 31.


Infection with various human polyomaviruses (HPyVs) is prevalent, with rates as high as 80 % within the general population. Primary infection occurs during childhood through respiratory or urino-oral transmission. While the majority of individuals exhibit asymptomatic latent infection, those immunocompromised persons are at risk for viral reactivation and disease progression resulting in conditions such as progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), trichodysplasia spinulosa, Merkel cell carcinoma, and polyomavirus associated nephropathy. Individuals with altered immune systems due to HIV, organ transplantation, lymphoproliferative diseases, and monoclonal antibody therapy are particularly susceptible to reactivation of various HPyVs. While the specific factors that induce lytic infection have yet to be defined, it is evident that dysfunctional host cellular immune responses allow active infection to occur. Immunosuppressant conditions, such as in chronic alcohol abuse, may serve as added risk factors for reactivation of HPyVs. Since the human HPyV family is rapidly expanding, continuing studies are needed to characterize the role that known and newly discovered HPyVs play in human disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Immunocompromised Host / physiology*
  • Polyomavirus / physiology*
  • Polyomavirus Infections / complications
  • Polyomavirus Infections / virology*
  • Virus Latency / physiology*