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Background: HHV-8 is closely related to Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), but the clinical presentations of these two infections in early childhood are not well understood. Also, it is not known whether infection by one virus correlates with another. Here, we compare the natural history of infection by these two viruses along with the clinical manifestations and risk factors that are associated with early childhood infection in Zambia, which is an endemic area for HHV-8.
Methods: This study was conducted in a cohort of 12 month old Zambian children (N = 677). Data on socio-economic status and a wide range of clinical manifestations were collected. Logistic regression was used to test for significant associations between the collected variables and HHV-8 or EBV serostatus at 12 months of age.
Results: We observed a significantly higher seroprevalence for EBV (58.9%) as compared to HHV-8 (13.4%). HIV-1 infected children had at a significantly higher risk of being infected with HHV-8 (Odds ratio [OR] 3.69, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.64 - 8.32). HIV-1 infection of the mothers was a significant risk factor for increased acquisition of EBV but not HHV-8 by children (OR 1.86, 05% CI 1.20 - 2.87). Self reported rash was marginally associated with primary infection for HHV-8 and EBV.
Conclusions: These results suggest that there is no correlation between EBV and HHV-8 infections. Infection by one does not increase the susceptibility for the second virus. Primary HHV-8 and EBV infection in early childhood may clinically present as rash but remains largely asymptomatic and may remain undetected in this population. HIV infection in the mother or child are important risk factors that contribute to EBV or HHV-8 infection.