We investigated whether a causal relationship exists between human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) and skin rash resembling acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) following bone marrow transplantation (BMT). Isolation of HHV-6 was used to monitor active HHV-6 infection in this study. We analyzed 25 episodes of skin rash in 22 recipients. All recipients were seropositive for HHV-6 before BMT. The onset of skin rash started prior to 30 days post transplantation (group A) in 15 of 25 cases, but after that (group B) in the remaining 10 cases. Twenty-five skin tissue samples were obtained from 22 recipients. The HHV-6 genome was detected in four of 15 skin samples from group A, but not detected in those from group B. HHV-6 was isolated from 11 of 22 recipients around 2 to 3 weeks after BMT (range 14 to 28 days after BMT). HHV-6 was isolated at a time between 10 days before and after the onset of skin rash (skin rash-related viremia) in nine cases in group A. Meanwhile, no skin rash-related viremia was observed in group B. Of the four recipients with positive detection of HHV-6 genome in their skin tissue (group A), two had HHV-6 viremia at the same time. The association between the timing of HHV-6 infection and the onset of skin rash was analyzed statistically. HHV-6 viremia (skin rash-related viremia) was found in nine of 15 (60%) cases in group A, compared with none of 10 (0%) cases in group B. This difference was statistically significant (P = 0.008). Moreover, HHV-6 infection (skin rash-related viremia and/or positive detection of HHV-6 DNA in skin tissue) was demonstrated in 11 of 15 (73.3%) cases in group A, compared with none of 10 (0%) cases in group B (P = 0.001). Thus, this study suggests that HHV-6 may be involved in the development of skin rash in the first month after allogeneic BMT.
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