A Japanese trial of foscarnet prophylaxis in cord blood transplant patients was successful in reducing severity and mortality as well as suppressing high viral loads, but it failed to prevent encephalitis. The authors note that the blood brain barrier must be inflamed to allow effective penetration of the drug into the central nervous system and speculate that the prophylaxis may have protected the meninges.
HHV-6 is rarely identified as the cause of liver dysfunction in immunocompetent children, in part because HHV-6 is not included in routine testing, and HHV-6 infections can be highly localized to the liver. In this case, an alert team in Arizona identified HHV-6 by needle biopsy.
Japanese investigators described HHV-6 myelitis in patients who had received cord blood transplantations and report that where HHV-6 reactivation is suspected, early antiviral intervention can dramatically improve patient outcomes.
Investigators at Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center found that HHV-6B is the first DNA virus to reactivate at a median of 3 weeks, compared to CMV, EBV and Adenovirus at 5-6 weeks. HHV-6B also peaked rapidly, unlike other DNA viruses that took 3-6 weeks to reach peak viral load. HHV-6B reactivation resulted in increased mortality after 100 days.
Half of autologous hematopoietic cell transplant patients with HHV-6 reactivation exhibit fever plus a collection of symptoms that include diarrhea, rash and pneumonia.
HHV-6 infections in the liver transplant patients can’t be diagnosed in the blood. Ganciclovir prophylaxis for CMV cuts the rate of HHV-6 reactivation from 39% to 11%.
Investigators in Japan studied 145 patients who developed HHV-6 encephalitis. At 100 days after transplantation, the overall survival rate was just 58.3%, compared with 80.5% for patients who did not develop encephalitis. High-dose antiviral therapy was shown to mitigate high mortality rates in these patients.
T-cell depleted stem cell transplant patients at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center with HHV-6 viremia, CMV viremia, or 2 or more viremias experienced longer hospital stays and were readmitted more often. HHV-6 was the most commonly reactivated virus, with 61% of patients affected patients .
A higher prevalence of inherited virus was found in patients
Investigators at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center determined that transplant patients with inherited ciHHV-6 were twice as likely to develop acute graft vs host disease and three times more likely to develop high level CMV viremia. Transplant patients were also significantly more likely to have inherited ciHHV-6 than donors.
CD8+ T cells recover but CD4+ T cells remain low
Investigators in France discovered that monocytes and B lymphocytes recover quickly and become abnormally elevated by day 75 in cord blood patients, while they remain below normal or normal in stem cell patients. Although CD8 T cells recover, CD4+ T cells remain below normal levels for six months in both groups.
Retrospective analysis of transplant patients revealed that low serum sodium levels are associated with HHV-6 encephalitis, but not HHV-6 myelitis. Low sodium is a possible marker for HHV-6 encephalitis post-transplantation.
Over a dozen studies have now found HHV-6 to predict aGVHD, but this is the first to correlate viral reactivation with poor CD4+ cell immune reconstitution.
Two physicians from Texas propose that ciHHV6 status of donors and recipients be determined before solid organ transplantion, using a single pre-transplant qPCR test on whole blood, and that patients with ciHHV-6 or ciHHV-6 donors be carefully monitored for signs of active HHV-6 infection.
A retrospective study of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant patients at University of Washington found that reactivation of several double stranded DNA viruses significantly increased the risk of overall mortality, as did an increased quantitative burden of viral exposure. HHV-6B conferred a significantly increased risk for overall mortality.
A young woman on rituximab and two other immunomodulatory agents for the treatment of dermatomyositis developed encephalitis with severe anterograde amnesia. As the use of biologic treatments for refractory autoimmune disease has been increasing, physicians are advised to consider HHV-6 and offer prompt antiviral therapy to limit irreversible morbidity.