Rationale. Human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) has been demonstrated to be the causative agent in roseola infantum. It has been suggested that HHV-6 may have neurotropic properties and be involved in the pathogenesis of febrile seizures in infants. We describe a case-control study to examine the hypothesis that acute HHV-6 infection occurs more commonly in children with febrile seizures than in controls.
Methods. Patients presenting with a first or second febrile seizure between 6 months and 2 years of age were entered in the study. Control patients did not have a seizure but had similar inclusion and exclusion criteria. Specimens were obtained for HHV-6 viral serology and polymerase chain reaction in the acute stage and approximately 2 weeks later. A diagnosis of HHV-6 infection was based on HHV-6-specific IgM and IgG serology and HHV-6 polymerase chain reaction of peripheral blood mononuclear cells and saliva.
Results. Eighty-six patients (45 with febrile seizures; 41 controls) were enrolled. The HHV-6 infection status could be determined in only 68 patients (35 with febrile seizures; 33 controls). Acute HHV-6 infection was identified in 15 of 35 febrile seizure patients and in 15 of 33 controls. Evidence of past HHV-6 infection was demonstrated in 13 febrile seizure patients and in 8 controls.
Conclusions. The incidence of primary HHV-6 infection is similar in patients with febrile seizures and age-matched controls. HHV-6 does not seem to be a major factor in the pathogenesis of first and second febrile seizures.