Detection of varicella-zoster virus DNA in peripheral mononuclear cells from patients with Ramsay Hunt syndrome or zoster sine herpete

J Med Virol. 1998 Dec;56(4):359-63.


On the basis of alterations in varicella-zoster virus (VZV) antibody titers, it appears that Bell's palsy in some patients could be associated with VZV reactivation, that is, zoster sine herpete. To obtain stronger evidence of this association, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was used to detect VZV DNA in auricular lesions or peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from Bell's palsy or Ramsay Hunt syndrome patients. VZV DNA was detected in the auricular lesions of Ramsay Hunt syndrome, in PBMCs from 2 Ramsay Hunt syndrome patients, and in 4 of 17 samples from 16 Bell's palsy patients. Three of these four positive patients were thought to have zoster sine herpete because of hearing difficulty, vertigo, and pain. VZV IgM antibodies were positive in 1 of the 2 patients with Ramsay Hunt syndrome, and in 2 of the 17 samples from the Bell's palsy patients. VZV IgG antibody titers during the acute phase were significantly higher in the patients positive for the PCR or VZV IgM antibody than in those negative for them. These findings provide evidence that Bell's palsy in some patients could be associated with VZV reactivation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood
  • Child, Preschool
  • DNA, Viral / analysis
  • Facial Paralysis / virology*
  • Herpes Zoster / virology*
  • Herpes Zoster Oticus / virology*
  • Herpesvirus 3, Human / genetics
  • Herpesvirus 3, Human / immunology
  • Herpesvirus 3, Human / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood
  • Immunoglobulin M / blood
  • Infant
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / virology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • DNA, Viral
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Immunoglobulin M