Image Source: College of Agriculture & Natural resourcesIn an on-going study at the University of Rochester Medical Center, scientists have come across a new form of inheritance which would probably astonish Mendel himself. Research has shown that parents pass on the human herpes virus 6 “HHV-6” to their offspring because the virus has integrated itself into the infected parent’s chromosomes. And it is actually not as odd as it sounds. One in every 116 newborns is affected by this unique congential infection. The virus appears to integrate itself into a position in the chromosome concerned with the maintenance of the body’s normal immune function.

Typically, HHV-6 causes roseola which is characterized by high fever, rash, and mild gastrointestinal symptoms. However, the number of viruses found in children, who carry the virus within their genes, is much higher than those who were infected merely through the placenta. 86% of the children included in the study had the virus integrated within their chromosomes. The HHV-6 DNA itself was found in a hair sample provided by one of the parents. Only six of the congenitally infected babies were infected by the mother through the placenta.

The odd part about this does not lay in the fact that the virus has integrated itself within the chromosomes, but that it was actually passed on. So far, the long-term consequences on the children’s immune system is unknown but to have a virus lying around like that in their DNA…simply frightening, yet fascinating.

Source: Biology News Net

Press release: URMC website

Original research paper: Chromosomal integration of human herpesvirus 6 is the major mode of congenital human herpesvirus 6 infection. Pediatrics. 2008 Sep;122(3):513-20. PMID: 18762520. (Vote for the abstract on Biowizard)

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6 Responses to “Like father Like son: He got his father’s virus!!”
  1. Hmm.. this sounds exciting. Shall we call it: horizontal transfer in humans?

    Happens all the time in bacteria, doesn’t it?
    It’s very similar to how phages integrate themselves in bacterial genomes and get “inherited?”

    It will be interesting to see whether the virus is inherited to the grandchildren and the grand-grandchildren? Will the virus remain intact or some of its key genes will be lost/inactivated?

  2. Bless League says:

    What a Topic!! Thanks for ur information. But allow me to ask u some questions I thought abt…Well It was said that the virus is integrated into the human chromosome & then inherited to babies, does this mean it has no cure? & if so after few decades maybe can it be epidemic?? and most importantly what’s its origin I mean from where it came in the first place??? Thanksss

  3. Horizontal transfer seems too primitive to exist in humans but I guess it is true. Also, will the virus become silent in some generations and get activated in others??

    As for a cure, the role of anti-virals has yet to be studied. Therapy is not necessary in the primary infection because it is self-limited but in immunocompromised patients, ganciclovir is recommended especially in cases when the HHV-6 has re-activated in adults. You can find more information about the treatment here ->
    I don’t think it will turn into an epidemic simply because it is not nearly as serious or fatal as other viral infections. The primary infection takes a while & it usually re-activates when the patient’s immunity declines for any other reason especially in transplant patients.
    As for its origin, I have searched for that, it was first discovered in 1986. The major route of infection is via oral secretions “saliva”. Then, congenital infection comes in second place.

  4. Wait a minute…

    I have done a rapid literature search, and It surprises me (while I’m totally new to this field) that in your source article one of the paper’s authors claimed that “This is the first time a herpes virus has been recognized to integrate into the human genome. To think that it’s actually a part of us – that’s really fascinating. This opens up a whole new realm of exploration.”

    It doesn’t seem to me that this is the first time a herpes virus has been recognized to integrate into the human genome (see the papers listed below). This statement may be misquoted or taken out of context- but it would be an oversimplification and a failure to acknowledge prior research (as you can see below). Unfortunately, I couldn’t reach the full text of the paper to see whether the authors have fairly cited prior research or not. I’ll try to get it.
    Now, go and read- Itis actually interesting to read this almost 9-years-old scientific debate:
    1999: Inheritance of chromosomally integrated human herpesvirus 6 DNA.
    2000: Inheritance of chromosomally integrated viral DNA?

    Didn’t this Japanese research group indeed have a good insight? They definitely needed more confirmation, but… they deserve some credit.

    Some literature:
    1: Descamps V, Mardivirin L, Ranger-Rogez S.
    Chromosomal integration of human herpesvirus 6 DNA in anticonvulsant
    hypersensitivity syndrome: a unique opportunity for the understanding of their
    Br J Dermatol. 2008 Jul 10. [Epub ahead of print] No abstract available.
    PMID: 18637005 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

    2: Watanabe H, Daibata M, Tohyama M, Batchelor J, Hashimoto K, Iijima M.
    Chromosomal integration of human herpesvirus 6 DNA in anticonvulsant
    hypersensitivity syndrome.
    Br J Dermatol. 2008 Mar;158(3):640-2. Epub 2007 Dec 11. No abstract available.
    PMID: 18076699 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

    3: Hubacek P, Maalouf J, Zajickova M, Kouba M, Cinek O, Hyncicova K, Fales I,
    Cetkovsky P.
    Failure of multiple antivirals to affect high HHV-6 DNAaemia resulting from viral
    chromosomal integration in case of severe aplastic anaemia.
    Haematologica. 2007 Oct;92(10):e98-e100.
    PMID: 18024365 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

    4: Kamble RT, Clark DA, Leong HN, Heslop HE, Brenner MK, Carrum G.
    Transmission of integrated human herpesvirus-6 in allogeneic hematopoietic stem
    cell transplantation.
    Bone Marrow Transplant. 2007 Sep;40(6):563-6. Epub 2007 Jul 16.
    PMID: 17637686 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

    5: Ward KN, Leong HN, Thiruchelvam AD, Atkinson CE, Clark DA.
    Human herpesvirus 6 DNA levels in cerebrospinal fluid due to primary infection
    differ from those due to chromosomal viral integration and have implications for
    diagnosis of encephalitis.
    J Clin Microbiol. 2007 Apr;45(4):1298-304. Epub 2007 Jan 17.
    PMID: 17229866 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

    6: Boutolleau D, Agut H, Gautheret-Dejean A.
    Human herpesvirus 6 genome integration: a possible cause of misdiagnosis of
    active viral infection?
    J Infect Dis. 2006 Oct 1;194(7):1019-20; author reply 1021-3. No abstract
    PMID: 16960791 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

    7: Luppi M, Barozzi P, Bosco R, Vallerini D, Potenza L, Forghieri F, Torelli G.
    Human herpesvirus 6 latency characterized by high viral load: chromosomal
    integration in many, but not all, cells.
    J Infect Dis. 2006 Oct 1;194(7):1020-1; author reply 1021-3. No abstract
    PMID: 16960792 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

    8: Ward KN, Leong HN, Nacheva EP, Howard J, Atkinson CE, Davies NW, Griffiths PD,
    Clark DA.
    Human herpesvirus 6 chromosomal integration in immunocompetent patients results
    in high levels of viral DNA in blood, sera, and hair follicles.
    J Clin Microbiol. 2006 Apr;44(4):1571-4.
    PMID: 16597897 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

    9: Tanaka-Taya K, Sashihara J, Kurahashi H, Amo K, Miyagawa H, Kondo K, Okada S,
    Yamanishi K.
    Human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) is transmitted from parent to child in an integrated
    form and characterization of cases with chromosomally integrated HHV-6 DNA.
    J Med Virol. 2004 Jul;73(3):465-73.
    PMID: 15170644 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

    10: Hermouet S, Minvielle S.
    Inheritance of chromosomally integrated viral DNA?
    Blood. 2000 Feb 1;95(3):1108-9. No abstract available.
    PMID: 10691335 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

    11: Daibata M, Taguchi T, Nemoto Y, Taguchi H, Miyoshi I.
    Inheritance of chromosomally integrated human herpesvirus 6 DNA.
    Blood. 1999 Sep 1;94(5):1545-9.
    PMID: 10477678 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

  5. Wow! Thank you! I always wanted to write in my site something like that. I’d like to add part of your post to my blog, okay?

  6. sorry for the really late reply, but sure, go ahead
    just please credit the source of information

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