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Hair follicle involvement in herpes zoster: pathway of viral spread from ganglia to skin

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Abstract

Herpes zoster is caused by reactivation of varicella-zoster virus (VZV) persisting in dorsal root or trigeminal ganglia. To clarify the pathway of viral spread from the ganglia to skin, 16 biopsy specimens of early skin lesions of herpes zoster obtained from the face and trunk of 13 patients were studied histologically and immunohistochemically using monoclonal antibodies to the structural proteins of VZV. VZV-infected cells were detected in the hair follicles in 10 of the 16 specimens and in the epidermis in 2 specimens. Infected cells were localized in the isthmus of every involved follicle (12/12), frequently in the stem (8/10) and infundibulum (6/10), and never in the bulb. The high frequency of follicular involvement in herpes zoster suggests that VZV spreads to the area of skin innervated by myelinated nerves, which end around the isthmus of hair follicles and sebaceous glands.

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Correspondence to T. Iwasaki.

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Muraki, R., Iwasaki, T., Sata, T. et al. Hair follicle involvement in herpes zoster: pathway of viral spread from ganglia to skin. Vichows Archiv A Pathol Anat 428, 275–280 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00196701

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Key words

  • Varicella-zoster virus
  • Herpes zoster
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Hair follicle
  • Sebaceous gland