Compartmentalization of Acyclovir-Resistant Varicella Zoster Virus: Implications for Sampling in Molecular Diagnostics

Antoinette A. T. P. Brink*, Michel van Gelder, Petra F. Wolffs, Cathrien A. Bruggeman, Inge H. M. van Loo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

18 Citations (Web of Science)


Background. Acyclovir resistance of varicella zoster virus (VZV) may arise in stem cell transplant (SCT) recipients with VZV disease and is usually a result of mutations in VZV thymidine kinase (TK), which is the target protein of acyclovir. Early detection of such mutations is necessary to enable timely therapy adaptation, for example, to foscarnet. We aimed to investigate whether TK mutations arise over time, and what sample types might be the most useful for this method. Methods. Spatially and temporally distinct samples from 3 SCT recipients with VZV disease unresponsive to acyclovir treatment were retrospectively investigated for the presence of TK mutations by polymerase chain reaction and sequence analysis. Results. In all 3 patients, a mutation in the VZV TK coding region was found resulting in an amino acid substitution. TK mutations were not only temporally but also spatially compartmentalized. In particular, plasma samples frequently showed wild-type TK sequences, whereas cerebrospinal fluid or skin vesicle fluid acquired on the same day contained mutant sequences. Conclusions. This study shows the importance of careful sampling for molecular diagnostics of acyclovir resistance in VZV disease. All affected body sites should be sampled and plasma samples may not be representative for the viral mutation status.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)982-987
JournalClinical Infectious Diseases
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2011

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