Human Herpesvirus 6 Infection in Pediatric Liver Transplantation: Single-Center Study of Incidence, Outcomes, and Management

Krupa R. Mysore, Baylor College of Medicine
Tuan L. Phan, Tulane University School of Medicine
Ryan W. Himes, Ochsner Medical Center - New Orleans
Deborah Schady, Baylor College of Medicine
Karen W. Eldin, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
Bhupesh K. Prusty, Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
Flor M. Munoz, Baylor College of Medicine


Background: Distinctions between HHV-6 primary infection in seronegative patients and HHV-6 reactivation in seropositive patients remains largely undescribed in pediatric liver transplant (LT) recipients. Methods: We implemented pretransplant serology testing of HHV-6 in a large pediatric hospital and retrospectively assessed the incidence, manifestations and outcomes of HHV-6 infections over a 3-year period. Results: Among 101 pediatric LT recipients, 96 had pretransplant HHV-6 serologies; 34 (35.4%) were seronegative and 62 (64.6%) seropositive. Posttransplantation, 8/25 (32%) seronegative patients had HHV-6 DNAemia (primary infection) compared to 2/48 (4%) seropositive patients (p=0.002). Compared to seropositive patients, seronegative patients with HHV-6 DNAemia were younger, and had symptoms of fever and/or elevated aminotransferases in association with higher viral loads, in the first month post-transplant. More than 90% of seronegative patients and 77.8% of seropositive patients had HHV-6 detected by PCR in liver biopsy obtained for concerns of allograft rejection, but most had no detectable concomitant DNAemia. Active replication of virus in the liver was confirmed by in situ hybridization in select cases. While HHV-6 infection occurred among patients on prophylaxis doses of antivirals for CMV, HHV-6 DNAemia and presenting symptoms resolved on treatment doses. Conclusions: HHV-6 DNA-emia occurred more frequently in seronegative pediatric LT recipients, usually in the early posttransplant period, and was subsequently detected in allograft biopsies. HHV-6 cannot be ruled out as a cause of hepatitis in the absence of allograft tissue testing and specialized virological assays, as HHV-6 may disrupt local allograft immune homeostasis while evading traditional screening methods using blood or plasma. The assessment of pre-transplant HHV-6 serological status may be important for risk stratification and post-transplant management of pediatric LT recipients