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Virology, epidemiology, and transmission of human herpesvirus 8 infection

Corey Casper, MD, MPH
Section Editor
Martin S Hirsch, MD
Deputy Editor
Allyson Bloom, MD


Kaposi's sarcoma, an unusual skin tumor localized in the lower extremities of elderly Mediterranean or Ashkenazi Jewish men, was first described in 1872 by the pathologist Moritz Kaposi [1]. This malignancy was relatively rare until the early 1980s when, with the onset of the HIV epidemic, it was described in several homosexual men in North America [2,3].

The epidemiology of Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) suggested a link between the development of disease and a transmissible agent. In 1994, a novel gamma herpesvirus was subsequently identified in KS biopsies [4]. After sequence analysis of the genome and characterization of the viral replication cycle, this virus was subsequently named human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8) or Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV).

There are four epidemiologic forms of KS:

Classic — Classic KS is an indolent cutaneous proliferative disease, mainly affecting the lower extremities of elderly men of Mediterranean and Jewish origin [5,6].

Endemic or African — The endemic or African form of KS found in all parts of equatorial Africa, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. It is not typically associated with immune deficiency [7,8].

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Apr 21, 2016.
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