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Infectious Virus Hidden in Chromosomes Can Be Passed from Parents to Children

Human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) infects nearly 100 percent of humans in early childhood, and the infection then lasts for the rest of a person's life. Now, a team led by Peter Medveczky, MD, a professor in the Department of Molecular Medicine at the University of South Florida (USF), has discovered that in some individuals, HHV-6 causes such a permanent infection by inserting or "integrating" its DNA into human chromosomes. From this harbor, the viral DNA cannot be eliminated by the immune system.

The paper describing this research was published online March 8 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The USF team also confirmed preliminary results by other investigators that, a long time ago, the virus inserted its DNA into the DNA of human sperm and egg cells. As a result, some people (about 1 percent of people in the U.S.) are born with the virus's DNA in every cell in their body. Indeed, HHV-6 is the first functional virus of any type reported to be passed through the human germ line.
 
 

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