In susceptible individuals, multiple events may trigger pulmonary vascular remodeling and pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). Human herpesvirus-8 (HHV-8), a γ-herpesvirus homologous with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), was suggested to act as a “second hit” in the development of PAH in susceptible patients. Although there is indirect evidence from in vitro and animal studies in favor of a link between γ-herpesviruses and the pathophysiology of PAH, results remain controversial. Therefore, we investigated the presence of EBV and HHV-8 in the lungs of patients with PAH.
Thirty-four lungs explanted from French patients with end-stage PAH (mean age, 38 ± 14 years; 19 women) were studied. Tissue samples were incorporated into tissue microarrays. Normal lung tissues served as negative controls. Kaposi sarcoma tissue served as a positive control for HHV-8, and EBV-associated lymphoma served as a positive control for EBV. The presence of HHV-8 was investigated with immunohistochemistry and polymerase chain reaction. The presence of EBV was investigated with immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization.
For HHV-8, none of PAH lung samples showed a “stippling” nuclear pattern classically observed in HHV-8-positive Kaposi sarcoma lesions. When studied by polymerase chain reaction, all cases remained negative. For EBV, none of the PAH lung samples showed positive staining, whatever the technique applied.
HHV-8 and EBV cannot be detected in the lungs of patients with end-stage PAH. The role of these γ-herpesviruses in the pathophysiology of PAH is, therefore, unlikely.