A recent paper on serologic markers and the risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma created quite a stir in the HHV-6 community because it included the first large scale study with an assay that discriminates between HHV-6A and HHV-6B antibodies. Unfortunately, the paper describing the details and validation of this important assay was delayed, but that exciting data will be released soon. Read a more from the group that developed this assay.

Dear members of the HHV-6 community,

In the HHV-6 foundation newsletter in June 2018 the recent publication of a study of more than 20 serological markers representing 13 different viral infections in non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) by Bassig et al. (Int J Cancer, 2018) was reported. One of the major findings of the study was an association between NHL and seropositivity against the HHV-6A antigen IE1A. The study represents a comprehensive approach to the role of various infections in NHL development, however it is important to note that this paper does not contain the validation data of the HHV-6 assay.

In the field of HHV-6 research it has been a long struggle to develop a serological assay that can discriminate between anti-HHV-6A or anti-HHV-6B antibodies in patients. In 2012, Higashimoto et al. (J Clin Microbiol, 2012) published a breakthrough paper on an immunoblotting assay that indeed could distinguish between the two viruses. A drawback with the method was however that it is labor intensive. So, for large screenings and in clinical practice there is still a need for a specific method that allows for high-throughput testing.

We have developed such a method, in a collaboration between our groups at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg. Our preliminary data suggest that our assay can indeed distinguish between HHV-6A and HHV-6B, and we have used it to screen around 14,000 study subjects.

The development has been a long process over many years in a collaboration of our groups at Karolinska, DKFZ, Université Laval and Fujita Health University. Apart from many technical challenges, we’ve been working hard to find appropriate control samples for validation. Given the ubiquitous nature of HHV-6 it has been very difficult to find primary infected subjects that are infected with one of the viruses only.

However, we recently came to a point where we feel confident about the method and are ready to publish. So, please note that this coming paper from our groups is the paper containing the validation data that should be referenced in further projects using the current assay.

Thank you and best wishes!

Rasmus Gustafsson (Karolinska Institute)
Ingrid Kockum (Karolinska Institute)
Tim Waterboer (German Cancer Research Center)
Anna Fogdell-Hahn (Karolinska Institute)
Elin Engdahl (Karolinska Institute)
Tomas Olsson (Karolinska Institute)
Louis Flamand (Université Laval, CHU de Québec)
Tetsushi Yoshikawa (Fujita Health University School of Medicine, Toyoake)