In patients with acute liver failure of unknown cause, viral infections are thought to be involved.
Dr Maiju Härmä and colleagues in Helsinki, Finland, investigated the role of human herpesvirus-6 in acute liver failure.
Dr Härmä's team followed 32 patients with acute liver failure who underwent liver transplantation.
Acute liver failure of unknown cause was the reason for transplantation in 15 patients. The remaining 17 patients were transplanted for a known disease, and served as controls.
The patients' explanted livers were examined for hepatitis viruses and other possible viral agents.
12 of the 15 patients with acute liver failure of unknown cause, demonstrated human herpesvirus-6 antigens in the liver. 10 of these 12 patients also showed antigenemia for human herpesvirus-6
Human herpesvirus-6 was found in only 4 of the 17 control patients.
The predominant histologic finding of human herpesvirus-6 infection was moderate to severe portal lymphocytic infiltration.
| Human herpesvirus-6 was found in most explanted livers of patients with ALF of unknown cause. |
Apart from cytomgalovirus infection in 2 of the control patients no other viruses were found in the livers of any of the patients.
Dr Härmä concludes « Our observations indicate that HHV-6 may be one of the causes of acute liver failure. »