To evaluate the potential role of human herpesvirus type 6 (HHV-6) infection in patients after bone marrow transplantation (BMT) we sequentially analyzed buffy coat leukocytes, oral lavage fluid, and urine from 57 patients for the presence of HHV-6 DNA by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) before and after 60 BMTs. Twenty-four patients undergoing autologous BMT and 36 with allogeneic BMT were studied. Thirty-six patients (60%) were PCR positive in one or more tests. The majority of PCR-positive patients had positive results only sporadically, in 1 (n = 23) or 2 weeks (n = 5). Six patients were positive in 3 to 5 weeks. In 2 patients, we found a high frequency of positive tests, in 7 of 7 and 10 of 10 weeks analyzed. Twenty-four patients (40%) remained PCR negative throughout the post-BMT period. There was a significant correlation between the results of HHV-6 PCR and the occurrence of acute graft-versus-host disease (aGVHD). In grade II-IV, 6 of 8 (75%) patients had 2 or more positive PCR tests, compared with 5 of 25 (20%) patients without or with grade I aGVHD (P = .01). There was no difference in the outcome of PCR tests with respect to the type of BMT or pre-BMT HHV-6 enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay titers. Restriction enzyme analysis of PCR amplificates from 18 patients showed HHV-6 variant B in 16 (88.9%) and variant A in 2 cases (11.1%). We conclude that HHV-6 DNA can be detected in 60% of the patients after BMT. HHV-6 DNA can be detected more frequently in patients with moderate and severe aGVHD than in patients without aGVHD or with mild aGVHD.

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