Micro RNAs from DNA Viruses are Found Widely in Plasma in a Large Observational Human Population

Sci Rep. 2018 Apr 23;8(1):6397. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-24765-6.


Viral infections associate with disease risk and select families of viruses encode miRNAs that control an efficient viral cycle. The association of viral miRNA expression with disease in a large human population has not been previously explored. We sequenced plasma RNA from 40 participants of the Framingham Heart Study (FHS, Offspring Cohort, Visit 8) and identified 3 viral miRNAs from 3 different human Herpesviridae. These miRNAs were mostly related to viral latency and have not been previously detected in human plasma. Viral miRNA expression was then screened in the plasma of 2763 participants of the remaining cohort utilizing high-throughput RT-qPCR. All 3 viral miRNAs associated with combinations of inflammatory or prothrombotic circulating biomarkers (sTNFRII, IL-6, sICAM1, OPG, P-selectin) but did not associate with hypertension, coronary heart disease or cancer. Using a large observational population, we demonstrate that the presence of select viral miRNAs in the human circulation associate with inflammatory biomarkers and possibly immune response, but fail to associate with overt disease. This study greatly extends smaller singular observations of viral miRNAs in the human circulation and suggests that select viral miRNAs, such as those for latency, may not impact disease manifestation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • DNA Viruses / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Herpesviridae / genetics*
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / blood*
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • RNA, Viral / genetics*


  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA, Viral