Background. Whether an association exists between infection with β-herpesviruses and connective tissue diseases remains unclear, as are the mechanisms for the regulation of these infections in the salivary glands. Methods. Human herpesvirus (HHV)-7 was isolated and viral DNA was quantified by real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in serially collected saliva samples, to determine whether viral load correlated with infectivity. Then, to examine the role played by β-herpesviruses in connective tissue diseases, cytomegalovirus, HHV-6, and HHV-7 DNA loads were examined by real-time PCR in serially collected saliva samples from 21 patients with connective tissue diseases. Results. Although subjects with frequent HHV-7 shedding were more likely to have a high viral load than were other subjects, high viral loads were detected in saliva samples from a portion of the subjects with low viral shedding rates. No significant difference between the quantity of HHV-7 DNA in saliva samples from which active virus was isolated and that amplified from samples without detectable virus was observed. Patients with adult-onset Still disease consistently had high HHV-7 DNA loads, in contrast to patients with other connective tissue diseases (P = .0003) and healthy adults (P = .0224). The mean HHV-6 (P = .012) and HHV-7 (P < .0001) DNA loads in patients with connective tissue diseases were lower than those in healthy adults. Conclusion. These data suggest that a number of host factors in patients with adult-onset Still disease may function to accelerate HHV-7 replication in the salivary glands.
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