Human herpesvirus 6

Human herpesvirus 6 variant A (HHV-6A) and human herpesvirus 6

variant B (HHV-6B) are two closely related yet distinct

viruses. These visuses belong to the Roseolovirus genus of the

betaherpesvirus subfamily; they are most closely related to

human herpesvirus 7 and then to human cytomegalovirus. Over

95% of people older than 2 years of age are seropositive for

either or both HHV-6 variants, and current serologic methods

are incapable of discriminating infection with one variant

from infection with the other. HHV-6A has not been

etiologically linked to any human disease, but such an

association will probably be found soon. HHV-6B is the

etiologic agent of the common childhood illness exanthem

subitum (roseola infantum or sixth disease) and related

febrile illnesses. These viruses are frequently active and

associated with illness in immunocompromised patients and may

play a role in the etiology of Hodgkin’s disease and other

malignancies. HHV-6 is a commensal inhabitant of brains;

various neurologic manifestations, including convulsions and

encephalitis, can occur during primary HHV-6 infection or in

immunocompromised patients. HHV-6 and distribution in the

central nervous system are altered in patients with multiple

sclerosis; the significance of this is under investigation.

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