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Virus weaves itself into the DNA transferred from parents to babies
Date:9/2/2008

loss, developmental disabilities and problems with the lungs, liver and spleen. Some of those health problems don't show up until months or years after birth. HHV-6 virus is a closely related virus to CMV, and the congenital infection rate of CMV is similar to that of congenital HHV-6 about 1 percent. However, this research shows that a congenital HHV-6 infection differs greatly from a congenital CMV infection in that it is often integrated into the chromosomes of the baby rather than passed through the placenta.

"This is the first time a herpes virus has been recognized to integrate into the human genome. To think that it's actually a part of us that's really fascinating," said Mary Caserta, M.D., associate professor of Pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center and one of the paper's authors. "This opens up a whole new realm of exploration."

Of 254 children enrolled in this study between July 2003 and April 2007, 43 had congenital HHV-6 infections based on cord blood samples. Of 211 children without congenital infection, 42 were children who acquired an HHV-6 infection during the study. Of the infants who had congenital infections, 86 percent of them (37) had the virus integrated into their chromosomes. Only six of the congenitally infected babies were infected by the mother through the placenta .

Children who had integrated HHV-6 had higher levels of virus in the body than those who were infected through the placenta. HHV-6 DNA was found in the hair of one parent of all children with integrated virus with available parental samples (18 mothers and 11 fathers), which means the children acquired the integrated infections through their mother's egg or father's sperm at conception. The virus's DNA was not found in hair samples of parents of children who were infected after birth.


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Contact: Heather Hare
heather_hare@urmc.rochester.edu
585-273-2840
University of Rochester Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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