In 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)Tags: chromosomal integration, family, HHV-6, inheritance, virus