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Abstract

Extrahepatic biliary atresia (EHBA) and choledochal cysts (CDC) are important causes of obstructive jaundice in pediatric patients. Viruses in general, and reoviruses in particular, have long been considered as possible etiologic agents responsible for inciting the inflammatory process that leads to these infantile obstructive cholangiopathies. In an effort to determine whether reovirus infection is associated with these disorders, we used a sensitive and specific reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) technique designed to amplify a portion of the reovirus L1 gene segment from extracts of liver and/or biliary tissues. These tissues were obtained at the time of liver biopsy or surgical procedures from 23 patients with EHBA, 9 patients with CDC, and 33 patients with other hepatobiliary diseases. Hepatic and biliary tissues obtained at autopsy from 17 patients who died without known liver or biliary disease were also analyzed. Reovirus RNA was detected in hepatic and/or biliary tissues from 55% of patients with EHBA and 78% of patients with CDC. Reovirus RNA was found also in extracts of hepatic and/or biliary tissue from 21% of patients with other hepatobiliary diseases and in 12% of autopsy cases. The prevalence of reovirus RNA in tissues from patients with EHBA and CDC was significantly greater than that in patients with other hepatobiliary diseases (χ2P = .012 EHBA vs. OTHER, P = .001 CDC vs. OTHER), or AUTOPSY cases (χ2P = .006 EHBA vs. AUTOPSY, P < .001 CDC vs. AUTOPSY).