Reflections on the interpretation of heterogeneity and strain differences based on very limited PCR sequence data from Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus genomes

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Ever since the original identification of fragments of KSHV DNA in Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) tissue by Chang et al. in 1994, PCR has been used successfully and extensively to detect the virus in clinical samples from the accepted etiological diseases of KS, PEL and MCD. However, a number of other clinical and epidemiological studies claiming evidence for KSHV in multiple myeloma or sarcoid and more recently in primary pulmonary hypertension, as well as claims about the biological significance of DNA sequence polymorphisms based just on small ORF26 PCR DNA fragments have not been convincing. Here, we evaluate the validity and interpretations of previous results in the context of both the observed rates and global patterns of sequence variability within an extended ORF26 locus, as well as from the perspective of the overall levels of KSHV variability found after sampling multiple loci across the complete KSHV genome. The results cast doubts on most claims for biological significance for these polymorphisms, which instead correlate with viral subtype clustering arising from geographic and ethnic divergence of the ancestral human hosts. In addition, we describe several observations that help to explain likely sources of the often either unexpectedly high or unexpectedly low levels of sporadic variability seen in the PCR DNA sequence data reported in some of those studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Clinical Virology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1 2007



  • Chimeric genomes
  • Constant region genes
  • Multisite analysis
  • Sporadic sequence variation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Virology
  • Infectious Diseases

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