An investigation of the viral pathogenesis of Kikuchi-Fujimoto disease: Lack of evidence for Epstein-Barr virus or human herpesvirus type 6 as the causative agents


Histiocytic necrotizing lymphadenitis of Kikuchi and Fujimoto is a well- defined clinicopathologic entity of unknown cause. Both the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and human herpesvirus type 6 (HHV-6) have been suggested as potential etiologic agents. Twenty cases of Kikuchi-Fujimoto disease were studied for the presence of EBV DNA and HHV-6 DNA by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and in situ hybridization in the case of EBV. Cellular DNA from sections of formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded lymph node tissue was amplified using the PCR technique and oligonucleotide primers to the EBV BamH1 W, lymphocyte-determined membrane antigen, or the EBNA-1 region. These studies were performed in three separate laboratories. In addition, 12 cases were examined by in situ hybridization, eight of which had shown at least one positive PCR signal for EBV. The presence of HHV-6 was assessed by PCR using primers to part of the pZVH14 sequence. Biopsy specimens from eight patients (40%) showed a strong positive signal for EBV in at least one laboratory, while an additional three specimens (15%) showed a weaker positive signal. Five cases studied showed rare positive cells by in situ hybridization, and one case had scattered positive cells. All samples lacked HHV-6 genomic templates. These findings indicate that HHV-6 does not play a role in the pathogenesis of Kikuchi-Fujimoto disease and do not implicate EBV as a causal agent for Kikuchi-Fujimoto disease, since EBV was detected in only a fraction of cases with a low number of positive cells detected by in situ hybridization. Further, some discrepancies were identified in the positive results for EBV in samples studied by multiple laboratories. These results indicate that inconsistent results by PCR may occur with very low levels of viral genomes and that different laboratories perform DNA amplification at different efficiencies. Alternatively, laboratory contamination may give rise to false-positive results. Therefore, a positive result for EBV should be interpreted with caution and should be confirmed by repeated study (PCR) or by independent methodology (in situ hybridization).

Publication Title

Archives of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

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