JC polyomavirus (JCV), the causative agent of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, is ubiquitous in the human population, infecting children asymptomatically and then persisting in renal tissue. In most adults, renal JCV replicates and the progeny are excreted in urine. We used this urinary JCV to elucidate the routes of JCV transmission. A 610-bp JCV DNA region (IG region) encompassing the 3'-terminal sequences of both T-antigen and VP1 (major capsid protein) genes was amplified by means of PCR from urine specimens collected from all members of seven families. JCV strains were then unequivocally identified by the nucleotide sequences of the amplified IG regions. We could identify 18 distinctive JCV strains from 27 individuals. Different JCV strains were detected from all unrelated persons. However, the same viral strain was detected from one (four families), two (one family), or three offspring (one family) as well as from the fathers (three families) or from the mothers (three families). In total, the JCV strains detected in half of the JCV-positive children were identified in their parents. Since most humans are infected during childhood, these findings indicated that JCV is transmitted frequently from parents to children. We roughly estimated that 50% of JCV transmission occurs by this route and that the other 50% occurs outside the family
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