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A common problem in rheumatological practice is inflammatory joint
disease that cannot be classified. The prognosis of such undifferentiated arthritides is uncertain. The synovial tissue of 41 consecutive patients with various forms of arthritis was tested for the presence of viral DNA in a diagnosis-unaware fashion, using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Of all tested viruses, cytomegalovirus and parvovirus B19 were positive (each in 10 patients, two double-positives), whereas herpes simplex virus was positive in two patients. Rubella virus RNA was detected in three specimens. When the positivity for viral material was analysed in terms of distribution among the various diagnostic groups, it became evident that five out of 10 parvovirus B 19-positive patients belonged to the undifferentiated arthritis group, whereas cytomegalovirus-positive patients were spread among all diagnostic groups. This indicates the possibility of a new diagnostic category of undifferentiated mono- and oligoarthritis, which can be identified by the presence of parvovirus B19 DNA in synovial tissue.