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HHV-8 (Kaposi's sarcoma virus) and Pregnancy; What risk is there to a fetus?
Feb 24, 2002

I have a question related to HHV-8 and transmitting this virus during pregnancy to the fetus.

Years ago, I engaged in 2 separate instances of deep kissing with a bisexual male, who about 2 years later developed fairly serious symptoms of HIV infection. I did not know he was HIV+, but I can only assume he was when these kissing episodes occurred.

I did not contract HIV from this person, but when I learned about the risk associated with deep kissing an HIV+ (especially, gay) male, I became concerned about my responsibility to find out whether I had become infected with HHV-8. This person, to my knowledge, wasn't aware of their HIV status at that time, and I can only assume he did not have KS. I do not know whether, to date, he has KS (or HHV-8) even now.

I am no longer very concerned about, for myself alone, I am infected with HHV-8. There is no real way to determine, even if I were to be, whether the infection was a result of these experiences with this person or whether it happened at some other time. I understand that humans carry many viruses, probably many even unknown to us, that are not pathogenic to those with healthy immune systems.

However, I am considering having a child, and I do not know whether I should exercise greater responsibility in light of this. Although I decided it to be impractical to test for my own sake (I know I would just worry), I do not know whether I should avoid this for the sake of a child.

How can I possibly determine, given the fact that I am, technically, in a relatively high-risk category for HHV-8 infection, how I should proceed (or not) with family planning.

Response from Dr. Dezube

You raise a very important question. You are concerned that you may have been exposed to HHV-8, and you question what risk this poses to your fetus. The first point I want to stress is that HHV-8 is a relatively common virus. It is true that it is spread by deep kissing (that's the term the New England Journal of Medicine uses for French kissing). Many, many people carry HHV-8 infection, as well as a host of other viral infections, and don't know it. Does it pay to find out whether you have HHV-8 infection? Probably not. We all harbor viruses, most of which do not create illness. In this way, HHV-8 is so much different from, for example, the HIV virus or the Hepatitis viruses, since these latter viruses can cause diseases much more readily. With HHV-8 infection, the majority of folks don't develop any disease unless they also have a compromised immune system, such as that caused by HIV infection. Even if you are HHV-8 infected, I am NOT aware of any risk posed to your fetus. So in short, I would advise you not to even be concerned with HHV-8 infection when it comes to family planning.

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