Background It is well known that varicella-zoster virus (VZV) exhibits tropism for the epidermis and follicular epithelium, while little attention has been paid to eccrine gland and duct involvement by VZV. The presence of herpetic syringitis in immunocompromised hosts suggested the possibility of eccrine gland and duct involvement by VZV.
Objectives To determine whether VZV antigens could be detected in eccrine gland or duct epithelium of herpes zoster (HZ) lesions obtained at various intervals after the onset of a rash, and whether this expression could also be detected in eccrine units from other inflammatory disease lesions suggestive of VZV infection.
Methods We investigated immunohistochemically in vivo localization of VZV glycoprotein E (gE) antigen in HZ lesions and control inflammatory disease lesions, using the murine monoclonal antibody directed against the VZV gE.
Results VZV gE was differentially detected in the epidermis, follicular and eccrine epithelium, and dermal infiltrating cells in HZ lesions obtained at various intervals after onset. The VZV gE was most persistently detected in eccrine units, regardless of the age of individual HZ lesions, compared with keratinocytes and follicular epithelium. The gE expression was also observed in other inflammatory disease lesions suggestive of VZV infection.
Conclusions Immunohistochemical detection of VZV gE in eccrine epithelium can be a subtle clue to the diagnosis of HZ which displays most unusual manifestations, and VZV-related disorders.