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Acquisition of Human Polyomaviruses in the First 18 Months of Life - Volume 21, Number 2—February 2015 - Emerging Infectious Disease journal - CDC

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Acquisition of Human Polyomaviruses in the First 18 Months of Life - Volume 21, Number 2—February 2015 - Emerging Infectious Disease journal - CDC

Volume 21, Number 2—February 2015


Acquisition of Human Polyomaviruses in the First 18 Months of Life

Rebecca J. RockettComments to Author , Seweryn Bialasiewicz, Lebogang Mhango, Jane Gaydon, Rebecca Holding, David M. Whiley, Stephen B. Lambert, Robert S. Ware, Michael D. Nissen, Keith Grimwood, and Theo P. Sloots
Author affiliations: Queensland Children’s Medical Research Institute, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia (R.J. Rockett, S. Bialasiewicz, L. Mhango, J. Gaydon, R. Holding, D.M. Whiley, S. B. Lambert, R.S.Ware, M.D. Nissen, K. Grimwood, T. P. Sloots)The University of Queensland, Brisbane (R.S. Ware)Queensland Health, Brisbane (S.B. Lambert)Pathology Queensland Central Laboratory, Herston, Queensland, Australia (M.D. Nissen)Griffith University, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia (K. Grimwood)Gold Coast University Hospital, Gold Coast (K. Grimwood)


We investigated the presence of 4 human polyomaviruses (PyVs) (WU, KI, Merkel cell, and Malawi) in respiratory specimens from a community-based birth cohort. These viruses typically were acquired when children were ≈1 year of age. We provide evidence that WU, KI, and Malawi, but not Merkel cell PyVs, might have a role in respiratory infections.
Human polyomaviruses (PyVs) JC and BK were discovered in 1971 and are believed to be acquired by a respiratory or fecal–oral route (1). They predominantly cause disease in immunocompromised persons (2). In the past 7 years, 11 new human PyVs have been described. These include WU (WUPyV), KI (KIPyV), Merkel cell (MCPyV), and Malawi (MWPyV) PyVs, all of which have been detected in respiratory secretions, particularly from children (3). Whether these viruses are pathogenic or simply passengers in the respiratory tract is not known. WUPyV and KIPyV were the first respiratory tract–associated PyVs and were discovered in children with acute respiratory infections (4,5).
MCPyV was identified in Merkel cell carcinoma tissue, and evidence suggested that genome integration of MCPyV initiates cell transformation (6). MCPyV has also been reported in respiratory samples, but potential skin or environmental contamination of respiratory samples must be considered (79). In 2013, MWPyV was detected in the fecal sample of a healthy child, and it has also been detected in samples from patients with gastrointestinal symptoms and in anal warts (10,11). We recently reported that MWPyV was frequently present in respiratory secretions, particularly in children <5 years of age (12). However, most of these studies were performed on convenience samples from acutely ill patients and included no samples or limited numbers of samples from healthy controls.
We investigated the presence of the respiratory-associated human PyVs (WUPyV, KIPyV, MCPyV, and MWPyV) in samples collected weekly, regardless of symptoms, from healthy children in Australia during their first 18 months of life. These children were participating in a community-based longitudinal birth cohort study (Observational Research in Childhood Infectious Disease [ORChID]).

Dr. Rockett is a senior research scientist at Queensland Children’s Medical Research Institute, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Her research interests are the biology and pathogenesis of emerging human PyVs, and molecular diagnostic techniques and their application to virus detection.


We thank Anne Cook, Francis Maguire, and Minda Sarna for providing assistance during collection of clinical data.
This study was supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council, Australia (grant 615700), a Queensland Children’s Hospital Research Institute PhD scholarship (grant 5001), and the Children’s Health Foundation (Brisbane, Australia) (program grant 50006).


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Technical Appendix

Suggested citation for this article: Rockett RJ, Bialasiewicz S, Mhango L, Gaydon J, Holding R, Whiley DM, et al. Acquisition of human polyomaviruses in the first 18 months of life. Emerg Infect Dis. 2015 Feb [date cited].
DOI: 10.3201/eid2102.141429

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