Human herpevirus-6 infection in pregnant and nonpregnant women

C. T. Leach, J. Piper, J. Baillargeon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human herpesvirus-6 (HHV-6) commonly infects infants and is associated with roseola infantum. HHV-6 previously has been shown to be shed in the female genital tract, especially in women in sexually-transmitted disease clinics (Leach et al., J Infect Dis, 1994;169:1281-3). Little information is available regarding infection and viral shedding in other groups of women. We present cross-sectional laboratory data for groups of nonpregnant and pregnant women. Methods: Women age 18-45 attending a university family planning clinic (nonpregnant) and two obstetrics clinics (pregnant, first trimester) in San Antonio were provided informed consent and enrolled between October 1995 and May 1998. A questionnaire, blood and vaginal swab were collected from each participant. Plasma was tested for HHV-6 IgG antibodies using a standard immunofluorescence assay (IFA). Lysed material from vaginal swabs was tested for HHV-6 DNA by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) with product detection by ELISA using a digoxigenin-labeled probe. All PCR-positive samples were confirmed by repeat PCR followed by Southern analysis. PCR-positive samples were subtyped using an established method. Results: A total of 569 women (224 nonpregnant, 345 pregnant) were enrolled. The majority (83%) were Hispanic. All subjects were HHV-6 antibody positive. Geometric mean titers against HHV-6 differed among pregnant (1:88) and nonpregnant (1:147) women. A higher proportion of nonpregnant vs. pregnant women had antibody titers ≥1:320 (32.9% vs. 17.9%, p<0.05). Low rates of HHV-6 shedding in the genital tract were observed for both groups (pregnant, 5/297 [1.7%]; nonpregnant, 5/214 [2.3%]). Of 9 samples subtyped, 4 (44%) were subtype A. Conclusions: These groups of pregnant and nonpregnant women were universally infected with HHV-6 but shed the virus at low rates in the genital tract. HHV-6 subtype A was noted more commonly than previous studies in adults. Followup of pregnant women and their offspring will be important for identifying sources for transmission in the neonate and infant.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)138A
JournalJournal of Investigative Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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