Recent studies have shown that human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA can be found in circulating blood, including peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), sera, plasma, and arterial cord blood. In light of these findings, DNA extracted from PBMCs from healthy blood donors were examined in order to determine how common HPV DNA is in blood of healthy individuals. Blood samples were collected from 180 healthy male blood donors (18-76 years old) through the Australian Red Cross Blood Services. Genomic DNA was extracted and specimens were tested for HPV DNA by PCR using a broad range primer pair. Positive samples were HPV-type determined by cloning and sequencing. HPV DNA was found in 8.3% (15/180) of the blood donors. A wide variety of different HPV types were isolated from the PBMCs; belonging to the cutaneous beta and gamma papillomavirus genera and mucosal alpha papillomaviruses. High-risk HPV types that are linked to cancer development were detected in 1.7% (3/180) of the PBMCs. Blood was also collected from a healthy HPV-positive 44-year-old male on four different occasions in order to determine which blood cell fractions harbor HPV. PBMCs treated with trypsin were negative for HPV, while non-trypsinized PBMCs were HPV-positive. This suggests that the HPV in blood is attached to the outside of blood cells via a protein-containing moiety. HPV was also isolated in the B cells, dendritic cells, NK cells, and neutrophils. To conclude, HPV present in PBMCs could represent a reservoir of virus and a potential new route of transmission
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