RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
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Quantification of human polyomavirus JC in brain tissue and cerebrospinal fluid of patients with progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy by competitive PCR.

Activation of human polyomavirus JC (JCV) infection is the cause of the central nervous system (CNS) disease progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML). Previous studies with uncontrolled quantification systems suggested that the virus load in the CNS correlates with the state of disease and might reflect therapeutic effects. Therefore the aim of this study was the development of a competitive system with standard PCR techniques that allowed rapid detection of JCV subtypes, simultaneous differentiation of the two human polyomaviruses JCV and BKV and absolute quantification of the virus burden in initial diagnosis and progressive disease states. Subtype- and species-specificity of the PCR was achieved with the development of a degenerative PCR primer pair that detected JCV DNA in a range regularly found in PML samples, but did not amplify BKV DNA. The accuracy of the system was evaluated by quantification of known amounts of cloned JCV DNA with a competitive JCV-specific template that exhibited a comparable amplification rate to that of the native product. The calibration study demonstrated a linear correlation over a wide range of DNA concentrations on the background of buffer or JCV-negative diagnostic samples. The reliability of the system for PML diagnosis was analysed by calibration and determination of the virus burden in tissue and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of 11 PML patients confirming the accuracy in both types of samples under diagnostic conditions. Comparison of the JCV DNA concentration in tissue and CSF by a tightly controlled quantification technique revealed for the first time differences in a range of about four orders of magnitude and a variable virus load in CSF samples taken at comparable states of disease. This pointed to an individual course of virus shedding and demonstrates that a controlled competitive PCR system of high accuracy is essential for reliable quantification of virus DNA either in initial diagnosis, in progressive disease or for the evaluation of therapeutic effects.

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