Background: DNA fragments that appeared to belong to an unidentified human herpesvirus were recently found in more than 90 percent of Kaposi's sarcoma lesions associated with the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). These fragments were also found in 6 of 39 tissue samples without Kaposi's sarcoma, including 3 malignant lymphomas, from patients with AIDS, but not in samples from patients without AIDS.
Methods: We examined the DNA of 193 lymphomas from 42 patients with AIDS and 151 patients who did not have AIDS. We searched the DNA for sequences of Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) by Southern blot hybridization, the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), or both. The PCR products in the positive samples were sequences and compared with the KSHV sequences in Kaposi's sarcoma tissues from patients with AIDS.
Results: KSHV sequences were identified in eight lymphomas in patients infected with the human immunodeficiency virus. All eight, and only these eight, were body-cavity-based lymphomas--that is, they were characterized by pleural, pericardial, or peritoneal lymphomatous effusions. All eight lymphomas also contained the Epstein-Barr viral genome. KSHV sequences were not found in the other 185 lymphomas. KSHV sequences were 40 to 80 times more abundant in the body-cavity-based lymphomas than in the Kaposi's sarcoma lesions. A high degree of conservation of KSHV sequences in Kaposi's sarcoma and in the eight lymphomas suggests the presence of the same agent in both lesions.
Conclusions: The recently discovered KSHV DNA sequences occur in an unusual subgroup of AIDS-related B-cell lymphomas, but not in any other lymphoid neoplasm studied thus far. Our finding strongly suggests that a novel herpesvirus has a pathogenic role in AIDS-related body-cavity-based lymphomas.