Parvovirus B19

Microbiol Spectr. 2016 Jun;4(3). doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.DMIH2-0008-2015.


Primary parvovirus B19 infection is an infrequent, but serious and treatable, cause of chronic anemia in immunocompromised hosts. Many compromised hosts have preexisting antibody to B19 and are not at risk. However, upon primary infection, some patients may be able to mount a sufficient immune response to terminate active parvovirus B19 infection of erythroid precursors. The most common consequence of B19 infection in the compromised host is pure red-cell aplasia, resulting in chronic or recurrent anemia with reticulocytopenia. Anemia persists until neutralizing antibody is either produced by the host or passively administered. Parvovirus B19 should be suspected in compromised hosts with unexplained or severe anemia and reticulocytopenia, or when bone-marrow examination shows either giant pronormoblasts or absence of red-cell precursors. Diagnosis is established by detection of B19 DNA in serum in the absence of IgG antibody to B19. In some cases, IgG antibody is detected but is not neutralizing. Anti-B19 IgM may or may not be present. Therapy includes any or all of the following: red-cell transfusion, adjustment in medications to restore or improve the patient's immune system, and administration of intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG). Following treatment, patients should be closely monitored, especially if immunosuppression is unchanged or increased. Should hematocrit trend downward and parvovirus DNA trend upward, the therapeutic options above should be revisited. In a few instances, monthly maintenance IVIG may be indicated. Caregivers should be aware that B19 variants, though rarely encountered, can be missed or under-quantitated by some real-time polymerase-chain reaction methods.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Viral / blood
  • DNA, Viral / blood
  • Humans
  • Immunocompromised Host
  • Parvoviridae Infections / diagnosis*
  • Parvoviridae Infections / transmission*
  • Parvovirus B19, Human / classification*
  • Parvovirus B19, Human / immunology*
  • Parvovirus B19, Human / isolation & purification


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • DNA, Viral