Serological investigation of BK papovavirus infection in pregnant women and their offspring

K. Shah, R. Daniel, D. Madden, S. Stagno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Paired sera from 150 pregnant women and 387 umbilical cord sera were tested for BK virus (BKV) antibodies. The hemagglutination inhibition, neutralization, and indirect immunofluorescence tests were employed for the detection of antibodies. Treatment of serum with anti-γFc and tests of immunoglobulin M (IgM) fractions for antibodies were utilized as required to detect and validate the presence of virus-specific IgM. The BKV antibody prevalence in the sera collected at the time of the first prenatal visit was 75% by hemagglutination inhibition and 91% by neutralization tests. A total of 95% of the women had antibodies by at least one of the three serological tests. Five of 100 women with normal pregnancies exhibited BKV activity during pregnancy as evidenced by a greater than fourfold rise in BKV hemagglutination inhibition antibody titers and acquisition of BKV-specific IgM. The antibody rise occurred in the younger women and appeared to be a result of reactivation of the virus rather than of primary infection. Two instances of possible recent BKV infections were identified. BKV-specific IgM was not detected in any of the 387 umbilical cord sera which included three specimens from infants born to mothers with definite or probable BKV activity during pregnancy and 50 specimens with IgM levels of >20 mg/100 ml. The results indicate that few women in the child-bearing age are nonimmune to BKV and that, although reactivation of infection occurs in pregnancy, congenital transmission of the virus either does not occur or is rare.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-35
Number of pages7
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1980

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases

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