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Virology, epidemiology, and pathogenesis of JC polyomavirus, BK polyomavirus, and other human polyomaviruses

Hans H Hirsch, MD, MSc
Section Editor
Martin S Hirsch, MD
Deputy Editor
Anna R Thorner, MD


Polyomavirus infections have been detected in vertebrate hosts including rodents, cattle, birds, monkeys, and primates. Despite some common features shared with papillomaviruses, including an oncogenic potential, polyomaviruses are now recognized as members of the separate genus Polyomavirus in the Polyomaviridae family of the ungrouped DNA viruses [1].

The virology, epidemiology, and pathogenesis of human polyomavirus (HPyV) infections will be provided here. An overview of the clinical manifestations and diagnosis of polyomavirus (PyV) infections is presented separately. Disease manifestations caused by HPyVs, including progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, PyV-associated nephropathy, and ureteral stenosis, are discussed in detail elsewhere. (See "Overview of JC polyomavirus, BK polyomavirus, and other polyomavirus infections" and "Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy: Epidemiology, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis" and "Natalizumab for relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis in adults", section on 'Risk of PML' and "Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy: Treatment and prognosis" and "Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of BK virus-induced (polyomavirus-induced) nephropathy in kidney transplantation" and "Prevention and management of BK virus-induced (polyomavirus-induced) nephropathy in kidney transplantation".)


Human polyomaviruses — Multiple species of human polyomavirus (HPyV) have been identified:

Human polyomavirus 1, called BK polyomavirus (BKPyV), and human polyomavirus 2, called JC polyomavirus (JCPyV), were named after the initials of the patients from whom they were first isolated in 1971 [2,3].

Human polyomavirus 3, called KI polyomavirus (KIPyV), and human polyomavirus 4, called WU polyomavirus (WUPyV), were named after the institutions of their first discovery in 2007 (Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden [4], and Washington University St. Louis, USA) [4,5]. (See "Overview of JC polyomavirus, BK polyomavirus, and other polyomavirus infections", section on 'Disease associations'.)


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