Coinfection of human herpesviruses 6A (HHV-6A) and HHV-6B as demonstrated by novel digital droplet PCR assay

Emily C. Leibovitch, Giovanna S. Brunetto, Breanna Caruso, Kaylan Fenton, Joan Ohayon, Daniel S. Reich, Steven Jacobson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


The human herpesviruses HHV-6A and HHV-6B have been associated with various neurologic disorders partly due to the detection of elevated viral DNA levels in patients compared to controls. However the reported frequency of these viruses varies widely, likely reflecting differences in PCR methodologies used for detection. Digital droplet PCR (ddPCR) is a third generation PCR technology that enables the absolute quantification of target DNA molecules. Mounting evidence of the biological differences between HHV-6A and HHV-6B has led to their recent reclassification as separate species. As it is now especially relevant to investigate each virus, our objectives were to first design a multiplex HHV-6A and HHV-6B ddPCR assay and then to investigate the incidence of HHV-6A and HHV-6B coinfection in samples from healthy donors and patients with MS, a disease in which HHV-6 is thought to play a role. In our assessment of healthy donors, we observed a heretofore-underappreciated high frequency of coinfection in PBMC and serum, and found that our assay precisely detects both HHV-6A and HHV-6B chromosomally integrated virus, which has important implications in clinical settings. Interestingly, upon comparing the saliva from MS patients and healthy donors, we detected a significantly elevated frequency of coinfection in MS saliva; increased detection of HHV-6A in MS patients is consistent with other studies suggesting that this viral species (thought to be more neurotropic than HHV-6B) is more prevalent among MS patients compared to healthy donors. As the biology and disease associations between these two viral species differ, identifying and quantifying both species of HHV-6 may provide clinically relevant information, as well as enhance our understanding of the roles of each in health and disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere92328
JournalPloS one
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 24 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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