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P&S Journal

P&S Journal: Spring 1995, Vol.15, No.2
Research & Reports
Virus May Be Linked to KS

The discovery of a unique DNA sequence may be a direct link between a new herpesvirus and Kaposi's sarcoma, possibly marking the end of a 20-year search for an infectious agent responsible for the cancer common among AIDS patients. Dr. Yuan Chang, assistant professor of pathology, and Dr. Patrick Moore, assistant professor of public health, have found DNA sequences in Kaposi's lesions that are similar to the DNA sequences of gamma herpesviruses. The virus, believed to be sexually transmitted, is most closely related to the Epstein-Barr virus that causes mononucleosis.

Gay and bisexual men with AIDS are 20 times more likely than hemophiliacs to get Kaposi's sarcoma (KS), and women with AIDS are more likely to develop the cancer if their partners were bisexual men rather than IV drug users. The virus was not found in tissue from 85 individuals without AIDS or KS, suggesting that it is probably not common in the general population. The researchers are currently determining if the DNA sequences they found are present in KS of non-AIDS patients.

The new findings open pathways for improvements in diagnosis and treatment of KS. It also is one more example, among only a handful, of a virus being implicated in cancer causation.

The researchers used the latest tools in molecular biology-representational difference analysis and the polymerase chain reaction-to isolate the extraneous viral DNA sequences. Although they believe they have strong evidence implicating the virus with KS in AIDS patients, the scientists will conduct more research to prove the link.

The research was reported in a December issue of Science.


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