BOSTON (Reuters) - A once-rare form of cancer may be spread
through kissing, according to researchers at the University of
Washington in Seattle.
The findings in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine
are especially significant for people who
have AIDS .
In healthy people, human herpesvirus 8 or HHV-8 generally does
not cause illness. But when those infected with AIDS also
contract HHV-8, they have an increased chance of getting the
cancer known as Kaposi's sarcoma, a malignant tumor usually of
Doctors had already known that HHV-8 is found in 11 percent to
20 percent of otherwise healthy gay men. Among men infected
with the HIV virus , the rate ranges from 30
percent to 54 percent.
The study was an attempt to determine how HHV-8 passed between
men and found that men who kissed a partner infected with the
AIDS virus and HHV-8 were five times more likely than other men
to become infected with HHV-8. Kissing is not generally
considered a high-risk behavior for passing sexually
"Our findings suggest that safer sex practices, such as
consistent use of condoms, although important in preventing
other sexually transmitted infections, may not protect against
HHV-8 infection," said the researchers lead by Dr. John Pauk.
"Our latest results indicate that the oral cavity is an
important, if not the preeminent, source of infectious virus,"
In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Patrick Moore of Columbia
University in New York, said "the acquisition of the virus
through exposure to saliva may account for the high rates of
infection in parts of Africa, where rates exceed 70 percent."