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Frequent detection of Merkel cell polyomavirus DNA in tissues from 10 consecutive autopsies

Mancuso, Giuseppe, Antona, Jlenia, Sirini, Camilla, Salvo, Michela, Giacometti, Lorenzo, Olivero, Carlotta, Trisolini, Elena, Indellicato, Rossella and Boldorini, Renzo 2017. Frequent detection of Merkel cell polyomavirus DNA in tissues from 10 consecutive autopsies. Journal of General Virology 98 (6) , pp. 1372-1376. 10.1099/jgv.0.000778

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Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV) has been identified in samples of Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), an aggressive skin cancer. Seroepidemiologic studies indicated a high frequency of MCPyV infection in humans, suggesting respiratory and faecal–oral routes, or transmission by skin contact. Since MCC is more frequent in immunocompromised patients, a reactivation of MCPyV latently infecting target cells has been proposed. However, neither definite ways of transmission nor specific target organs have been identified with certainty. Ten autopsies with an extensive organ sampling for a total of 121 specimens (tissue and blood samples) were collected. All tissue specimens were fixed in formalin and embedded in paraffin. Real-time PCR was performed to quantify the copy number of the large T antigen (LT) gene and the capsid VP1 gene of MCPyV. MCPyV LT and/or VP genes were detected in all of the collected specimens. A high prevalence of MCPyV was found in the blood (six cases) and lung (five cases); the brain was positive in three cases. The highest viral copy number was detected in blood from two autopsies (21 610 570.09 copies per 105 cells and 380 413.25 copies per 105 cells), whereas the viral copy number in the other organs was low. Our data confirm the high frequency of MCPyV infection in the general population, which seems to indicate that the respiratory tract is a possible route for viral transmission and viral persistence in the brain. The frequent detection of MCPyV DNA in blood suggests that circulating leukocytes could be one of the reservoirs of MCPyV, whereas the high viral copy number also seems to indicate the possibility of viral reactivation in immunocompetent adults.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Publisher: Microbiology Society
ISSN: 0022-1317
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 29 November 2018
Date of Acceptance: 17 March 2017
Last Modified: 28 Jun 2019 05:04

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