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Keywords:

  • Cytomegalovirus;
  • Epstein–Barr virus;
  • herpes simplex virus;
  • polymerase chain reaction;
  • viral transmission

Abstract

Objective

To investigate asymptomatic shedding from the uterine cervix of five human herpes viruses: cytomegalovirus (CMV), Epstein–Barr virus (EBV), herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 1 and type 2 and varicella zoster virus (VZV), in young women.

Design

A descriptive study.

Setting

Sahlgrenska University Hospital.

Population

Three hundred and five young, healthy Swedish women.

Methods

Cervical specimens were analyzed for the presence of viral DNA with a quantitative real-time PCR assay.

Main outcome measures

Detection of viral DNA.

Results

Viral DNA was detected in 66 (21.6%) of the cervical samples. The most common findings were CMV DNA, detected in 35 (11.5%), and EBV DNA, found in 32 (10.5%) of the women. HSV-1 DNA was detected in 5 (1.7%) and HSV-2 DNA in 4 (1.4%), but VZV DNA was not found. The estimated DNA level for the detected viruses was similar with a mean DNA quantity of 2.6 log genome equivalents (Geq)/mL for CMV (range 1.7–4.3), 2.5 log Geq/mL for EBV (range 1.7–4.7), 2.4 log Geq/mL for HSV-1 (range 1.7–3.5) and 2.6 log Geq/mL for HSV-2 (range 1.7–4.1). The simultaneous presence of DNA from two or more herpes viruses was detected in eight specimens.

Conclusions

Asymptomatic shedding of CMV and EBV from the uterine cervix was found in one-fifth of young women. In four of the cervical samples; two with EBV, one with CMV, one with HSV-2, high amounts of viral DNA (>4 log Geq/mL) were detected suggesting a greater risk of transmitting the virus perinatally or sexually.