Human Herpesvirus 6 Detection in Alzheimer's Disease Cases and Controls across Multiple Cohorts

Neuron. 2020 Mar 18;105(6):1027-1035.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2019.12.031. Epub 2020 Jan 23.


The interplay between viral infection and Alzheimer's disease (AD) has long been an area of interest, but proving causality has been elusive. Several recent studies have renewed the debate concerning the role of herpesviruses, and human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) in particular, in AD. We screened for HHV-6 detection across three independent AD brain repositories using (1) RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) datasets and (2) DNA samples extracted from AD and non-AD control brains. The RNA-seq data were screened for pathogens against taxon references from over 25,000 microbes, including 118 human viruses, whereas DNA samples were probed for PCR reactivity to HHV-6A and HHV-6B. HHV-6 demonstrated little specificity to AD brains over controls by either method, whereas other viruses, such as Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and cytomegalovirus (CMV), were detected at comparable levels. These direct methods of viral detection do not suggest an association between HHV-6 and AD.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; herpesvirus; human herpesvirus 6.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / virology*
  • Brain / virology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Herpesvirus 6, Human / genetics
  • Herpesvirus 6, Human / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA / statistics & numerical data
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA / statistics & numerical data