Seroprevalence of Merkel cell polyomavirus in the general rural population of Anyang, China

PLoS One. 2014 Sep 3;9(9):e106430. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0106430. eCollection 2014.


Background: Despite the probably causal link between Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV) infection and Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), a rare but aggressive skin malignancy, little is known about the seroepidemiology of MCPyV among healthy adults in China.

Methods: Serum antibodies against MCPyV were evaluated by multiplex serology in a population-based study of 5548 adults (including 1587 heterosexual couples) aged 25-65 years who were enrolled from rural Anyang, China in 2007-2009. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses were performed to assess the risk factors for the seropositivity of MCPyV.

Results: The seroprevalence for MCPyV was 61.0%. MCPyV seropositivity was significantly higher in males than in females (64.5% vs. 57.7%, P<0.001), and for both genders, showed a trend of increase with age (Male: Ptrend<0.001; Female: P(trend)<0.001). Furthermore, among antibody positives, antibody levels of MCPyV increased with advancing age (P(trend )=0.017). MCPyV seropositivity of one spouse was significantly associated with that of the other partner (Adjusted OR=1.32, 95% CI: 1.07-1.62). However, there was no association between sexual behaviors and the seropositivity of MCPyV.

Conclusions: High seroprevalence of MCPyV was observed in healthy Chinese individuals. Serological evidence suggests that nonsexual horizontal spread of MCPyV can occur among family members, and further research in this regard is needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood*
  • China
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Merkel cell polyomavirus / isolation & purification*
  • Merkel cell polyomavirus / pathogenicity
  • Middle Aged
  • Polyomavirus Infections / epidemiology
  • Polyomavirus Infections / genetics*
  • Polyomavirus Infections / virology
  • Risk Factors
  • Rural Population
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies*
  • Sexual Behavior


  • Antibodies, Viral

Grant support

This work was supported by Natural Science Foundation of China [30872937, 30930102]; “973” Project of National Ministry of Science and Technology Grant [2011CB504300, 2012CB910800]; “863” Key Projects of National Ministry of Science and Technology Grant [2006AA2Z467]; Charity Project of National Ministry of Health [201202014, 200902002]; and Natural Science Foundation of Beijing [7100001] to Y.K. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.