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Polyomaviruses and Human Diseases

Volume 577 of the series Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology pp 19-45

Discovery and Epidemiology of the Human Polyomaviruses BK Virus (BKV) and JC Virus (JCV)

  • Wendy A. KnowlesAffiliated withHealth Protection Agency

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Abstract

Although discovered over thirty years ago, many aspects of the epidemiology of BKV and JCV in the general population, such as the source of infectious virus and the mode of transmission, are still unknown. Primary infection with both BKV and JCV is usually asymptomatic, and so age seroprevalence studies have been used to indicate infection. BKV commonly infects young children in all parts of the world, with the exception of a few very isolated communities, adult seroprevalence rates of 65–90% being reached by the age of ten years. In contrast, the pattern of JCV infection appears to vary between populations; in some anti-JCV antibody is acquired early as for BKV, but in others anti-JCV antibody prevalence continues to rise throughout life. This indicates that the two viruses are probably transmitted independently and by different routes. Whilst BKV DNA is found infrequently in the urine of healthy adults, JCV viruria occurs universally, increasing with age, with adult prevalence rates often between 20% and 60%. Four antigenic subtypes have been described for BKV and eight genotypes are currently recognized for JCV. The latter have been used to trace population movements and to reconstruct the population history in various communities.