Human herpesvirus-8 (HHV-8) DNA sequences have been identified in all forms of Kaposi's sarcoma (KS), a cancer found primarily in adult AIDS patients. We have identified HHV-8 strains in a rare human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-negative form of KS, which is endemic in children in parts of sub-Saharan Africa. This was shown in Zambia, where we also had identified HHV-8 sequences in blood from HIV-negative febrile children without KS. In order to investigate the relationship of these Zambian strains to each other and to those from other forms of KS, we compared them to strains we have characterized from European AIDS KS (Denmark) and all published sequences from all forms of KS. Four distinct genomic regions were examined by PCR and sequencing: ORF26, ORF75, gH and K1. The results showed a distinct grouping of strains from both sets of Zambian children in all genomic regions studied, but which was most pronounced in the K1 glycoprotein gene. This gene was highly variable, encoding up to 25% amino acid sequence variation. In contrast, the Zambian groups were closely related to each other, with only 2% variation. Similar results were found in comparisons to the K1 sequences from HIV-positive febrile infants or KS children. The data raise the possibility that in areas where rare childhood endemic KS occurs, geographical variation in HHV-8 may relate to differences in virulence or transmission.


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