Epidemiology and Infection

Serological and virological evidence of non-sexual transmission of human herpesvirus type 8 (HHV8)

F. VITALE a1, E. VIVIANO a1, A. M. PERNA a1, F. BONURA a1, G. MAZZOLA a2, F. AJELLO a1 and N. ROMANO a1c1
a1 Dipartimento di Igiene e Microbiologia ‘G. D'Alessandro’ Università degli Studi, Via del Vespro, 133, 90127 Palermo, Italy
a2 Azienda Unità Sanitaria Locale 6, Presidio Ospedaliero Malattie Infettive ‘Guadagna’, Palermo, Italy


To evaluate whether or not human herpesvirus 8 (HHV8) can be transmitted through a non-sexual route a serological survey was carried out in a group of 51 catholic nuns. The seroprevalence rate and the geometrical mean antibody titre to anti-latent HHV8 antigen were similar in nuns and in a group of 60 women, matched by age, in the general population (27 vs. 24%; 1028 vs. 1575, respectively). Moreover, by using nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR), HHV8 DNA sequences were detected in 7 of 16 (43·8%) saliva and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from patients with classical Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) and in 3 out of 7 (42%) AIDS-KS patients. None of 5 HIV positive persons who did not have KS tested positive for HHV8 DNA. HHV8 DNA sequences were also detected in 2 of 12 (17%) saliva and 1 PBMC sample out of 12 healthy HHV8 positive individuals (age range: 30–80 years old). This paper suggests that non-sexual transmission of HHV8 is operating in our geographical setting and saliva may be a potential source of HHV8 spreading in the general population.

(Accepted April 17 2000)

c1 Author for correspondence.