We have used the nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR) combined with fluorescence-activated cell sorting to define sites of latency of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) in the peripheral blood of healthy subjects. Peripheral blood mononuclear (PBM) cells were separated into T cell or non-T cell populations and monocytes, and were then analysed by PCR for the presence of HCMV DNA. In five of six seropositive subjects, HCMV was found predominantly in the non-T cell population. Further analysis suggested that the virus was present in adherent cells and CD14 cells. In three of nine seronegative subjects we could demonstrate HCMV DNA, which we do not believe was due to contamination, reproducibly by PCR. In one of these seronegative subjects, HCMV DNA was present predominantly in the non-T cell fraction of PBM cells. No HCMV DNA was detectable in the remaining six seronegative subjects. We conclude that, within the PBM cells of normal asymptomatic seropositive and some seronegative subjects, HCMV is present predominantly in the monocyte fraction. In addition, the detection of HCMV sequences in seronegative subjects may indicate that infection with HCMV is more widespread than conventional seroepidemiology suggests.


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