Human polyoma viruses and disease with emphasis on clinical BK and JC

Raghavender Boothpur, Daniel C. Brennan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Polyoma viruses are ubiquitous infecting many different mammalian species including humans. There are five known human polyoma viruses. JC virus and BK virus are two polyoma viruses identified nearly three decades ago. Recently WU, KI and Merkel cell polyoma viruses have been isolated from humans. The exact role of these three newly discovered viruses in human disease is not known. Most human polyoma disease is caused by BK and JC viruses which are usually acquired in childhood. Approximately 50-80% of humans have seropositivity to these viruses. Clinically apparent diseases in immunocompetent hosts are extremely rare. These viruses remain latent possibly in the lymphoid organs, neuronal tissue, and kidney and under the circumstances of severe immunosuppression both these viruses reactivate. Neurotropic JC virus reaches the brain and causes progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, a demyelinating disease of the central nervous system with a high mortality rate. BK virus is urotheliotropic and its reactivation causes a form of interstitial nephritis, known as BK or polyoma virus associated nephropathy which is associated with high graft loss if not recognized early. There are no known effective antiviral agents for any of the polyoma viruses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)306-312
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Virology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • BK virus
  • JC virus
  • Polyoma virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Virology
  • Infectious Diseases


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