The human polyomaviruses: from orphans and mutants to patchwork family

Authors

  • Christine Hanssen Rinaldo,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Tromsø, Tromsø, Norway
    • Department of Microbiology and Infection Control, University Hospital of North Norway, Tromsø
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  • Hans H. Hirsch

    Corresponding author
    1. Transplantation & Clinical Virology, Department Biomedicine (Haus Petersplatz), University of Basel, Basel
    2. Infectious Diseases & Hospital Epidemiology, University Hospital Basel, Basel, Switzerland
    • Department of Microbiology and Infection Control, University Hospital of North Norway, Tromsø
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Christine Hanssen Rinaldo, Department of Microbiology and Infection Control, University Hospital of North Norway, P.O. Box 56, N-9038 Tromsø, Norway. e-mail: christine.rinaldo@unn.no Hans H. Hirsch, Department Biomedicine - Haus Petersplatz, University of Basel, Petersplatz 10, CH-4003 Basel, Switzerland. e-mail: hans.hirsch@unibas.ch

Abstract

For almost 40 years, polyomavirus JC and BK were the only known human polyomaviruses but in the last 7 years, increased interest and innovative molecular screening techniques have led to the identification of 10 previously unknown polyomaviruses in humans. Two of these, Merkel cell polyomavirus and Trichodysplasia spinulosa polyomavirus, have also been found to cause disease in immunocompromised patients. Seroprevalence studies indicate that human polyomaviruses are transmitted independently of one another in humans and carry different risks of exposure and reexposure throughout life. The potential coexistence of 12 or more different polyomavirus species in the same host and possibly even in the same organ raises the question of potential interactions. Careful review of polyomavirus biology may facilitate new discoveries concerning these formerly underestimated viral agents and their influence on human health.

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