OBJECTIVE: To review the current literature on human herpesvirus 8 with particular attention to the aspects related to the etiopathogenesis of Kaposi's sarcoma. MATERIALS AND METHODS: The authors searched original research and review articles on specific aspects of human herpesvirus 8 infection, including virology, epidemiology, transmission, diagnosis, natural history, therapy, and Kaposi's sarcoma etiopathogenesis. The relevant material was evaluated and reviewed. RESULTS: Human herpesvirus 8 is a recently discovered DNA virus that is present throughout the world but with major geographic variation. In the Western world, the virus, transmitted mainly by means of sexual contact, is strongly associated with Kaposi's sarcoma and body cavity-based lymphoma and more controversially with multiple myeloma and other non-proliferative disorders. There is no specific effective treatment, but HIV protease inhibitors may play an indirect role in the clearance of human herpesvirus 8 DNA from peripheral blood mononuclear cells of HIV-infected patients. Human herpesvirus 8 DNA is present in saliva, but there are as yet no documented cases of nosocomial transmission to health care workers. The prevalence of human herpesvirus 8 among health care workers is probably similar to that in the general population. CONCLUSION: Human herpesvirus 8 appears to be, at least in Western Europe and United States, restricted to a population at risk of developing Kaposi's sarcoma. Human herpesvirus 8 certainly has the means to overcome cellular control and immune responses and thus predispose carriers to malignancy, particularly Kaposi's sarcoma. The wide diffusion of Human herpesvirus 8 in classic Kaposi's sarcoma areas appears to represent an important factor in the high incidence of the disease. However, additional co-factors are likely to play a role in the development of Kaposi's sarcoma.
Human herpesvirus 8; KSHV; Kaposi´s sarcoma; AIDS; HIV