The aim of this study was to investigate the possibility of using monocytes/macrophages as mediators in human herpesvirus-6 (HHV-6) infection of thyroid gland tissues in autoimmune thyroiditis (AIT). Seventy-three AIT patients were enrolled in this study. The control group consisted of 80 blood donors. Monocyte/macrophage isolation for AIT patient samples was performed by adherence. HHV-6 was detected in peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) DNA samples using nested polymerase chain reaction (nPCR). Gene expression of HHV-6 active infection marker (U79/80) and chemokine receptors (U12, U51) in patient monocyte/macrophage samples and blood donor PBMC samples was detected using reverse-transcription PCR. HHV-6 viral load was detected by using quantitative-PCR technique. The HHV-6 genomic sequence was found significantly more frequently among AIT patient than control group samples. Markers of active infection were found in 8 AIT patient monocyte/macrophage samples (11%) and in none of control group PBMC samples. HHV-6 U51 mRNA expression was detected only in AIT patient samples (2/24 previously positive for HHV-6). Since HHV-6 genomic sequences were found significantly more frequently in AIT patient samples and active infection markers were found in patient monocytes/macrophages, our results suggest that monocytes/macrophages may be used by HHV-6 as mediators for thyroid gland infection.
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