Using real-time fluorescence PCR, we quantitated the numbers of copies of latent varicella-zoster virus (VZV) and herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2) genomes in 15 human trigeminal ganglia. Eight (53%) and 1 (7%) of 15 ganglia were PCR positive for HSV-1 or -2 glycoprotein G genes, with means of 2,902 +/- 1,082 (standard error of the mean) or 109 genomes/10(5) cells, respectively. Eleven of 14 (79%) to 13 of 15 (87%) of the ganglia were PCR positive for VZV gene 29, 31, or 62. Pooling of the results for the three VZV genes yielded a mean of 258 +/- 38 genomes/10(5) ganglion cells. These levels of latent viral genome loads have implications for virus distribution in and reactivation from human sensory ganglia.
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