Epidemiology of human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) infection in pregnant and nonpregnant women

Jacques Baillargeon, Jeanna Piper, Charles T. Leach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Background: Human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) is a ubiquitous virus primarily associated with benign conditions such as febrile syndromes and exanthem subitum (roseola infantum). Sexual, horizontal, and vertical transmission have been suggested. Little information is available regarding HHV-6 infection in women of reproductive age. Objective: Describe epidemiology of HHV-6 infection in pregnant and nonpregnant women. Study design: The study sample consisted of 569 women, age 18-45, who attended a university family planning clinic (nonpregnant, n=224) and two obstetrics clinics (pregnant [first trimester], n=345) in San Antonio, TX between October 1995 and May 1998. Blood and a vaginal swab, as well as sociodemographic information, were collected from each participant. Plasma was tested for HHV-6 IgG antibodies using a standard immunofluorescence assay (IFA). Lysed material from vaginal swabs was tested for HHV-6 DNA by polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Products were screened by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and positive tests were confirmed by repeat PCR followed by Southern analysis. PCR-positive samples were subtyped using an established method. Results: All subjects were HHV-6 antibody positive. Geometric mean titers of HHV-6 antibodies were significantly higher among nonpregnant versus pregnant women. Moreover, a higher proportion of nonpregnant versus pregnant women had antibody titers ≥160 and ≥320. This association persisted even after adjusting for a number of sociodemographic and clinical factors. Low rates of HHV-6 shedding in the genital tract were observed for both groups (pregnant, 7/297 [2.0%]; nonpregnant, 8/214 [3.7%]). Of 14 samples subtyped, four (29%) were subtype A. Conclusion: The present study showed that 100% of the study sample was infected with HHV-6. Higher HHV-6 antibody titers, however, were noted in nonpregnant women. Both groups shed virus at low rates in the genital tract. HHV-6 subtype A was identified more commonly than previously reported. Further longitudinal studies are required to assess the consequences of maternal HHV-6 infection. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)149-157
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Clinical Virology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Epidemiology
  • Herpesvirus 6
  • Human
  • Pregnancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Virology
  • Infectious Diseases


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