Friday, December 13, 2013

Kaposi's Sarcoma, once common in MSM with AIDS, is definitely itself caused by a different herpes virus

During the height of medical coverage of AIDS in the 1980s and early 1990s, Kaposi’s Sarcoma as often the first “opportunistic disease” presented by MSM confirming a diagnosis of “full blown AIDS”.  Over time, KS gradually became less frequent as a presenting symptom, and today is no longer widely discussed.
What’s interesting now is that Wikipedia flatly notes that KS lesions are caused directly by a herpes virus, type 8.   (An early theory in the 1980s had been poppers.)  The increase in use of condoms among MSM would have been effective in preventing or reducing transmission of both HIV and of HHV8, explaining the gradual decline of KS in gay men.  It is likely that KS in elderly Jewish men in some parts of Russia is also related to HHV8.  KS is usually “multifocal”, originating repeatedly rather than metastasizing.  But it can become destructive and rapidly fatal when it forms in the lungs or GI tract. 
The HHV8 virus can also cause one form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma more common with AIDS, and it may be more “effective” in producing lymphoma when Epstein-Barr virus, a similar herpes virus, is present.
At one time, the idea that viruses directly cause cancer was seen as speculative. But by 1983, a viruses related to HIV called HTLV-1 had caused a T-cell leukemia in Asia, with opportunistic infections often similar to those of AIDS.
It’s curious that in the late 1970s, clusters of Hodgkins Disease were reported in some areas of the country, especially the Northeast, and that speculation of association with EBV was mentioned then.  All of this a few years before HIV exploded in the MSM community.  All very interesting. The most important Wikipedia article is here.  HHV8 is apparently rather ubiquitous, and harmless until someone is immunocompromised 

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