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Viral miRNAs in plasma and urine divulge JC polyomavirus infection

Ole Lagatie1*, Tom Van Loy1, Luc Tritsmans2 and Lieven J Stuyver1

Author Affiliations

1 Janssen Diagnostics, Turnhoutseweg 30, Beerse 2340, Belgium

2 Janssen Research and Development, Turnhoutseweg 30, Beerse 2340, Belgium

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Virology Journal 2014, 11:158  doi:10.1186/1743-422X-11-158

Published: 2 September 2014



JC polyomavirus (JCPyV) is a widespread human polyomavirus that usually resides latently in its host, but can be reactivated under immune-compromised conditions potentially causing Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML). JCPyV encodes its own microRNA, jcv-miR-J1.


We have investigated in 50 healthy subjects whether jcv-miR-J1-5p (and its variant jcv-miR-J1a-5p) can be detected in plasma or urine.


We found that the overall detection rate of JCPyV miRNA was 74% (37/50) in plasma and 62% (31/50) in urine. Subjects were further categorized based on JCPyV VP1 serology status and viral shedding. In seronegative subjects, JCPyV miRNA was found in 86% (12/14) and 57% (8/14) of plasma and urine samples, respectively. In seropositive subjects, the detection rate was 69% (25/36) and 64% (23/36) for plasma and urine, respectively. Furthermore, in seropositive subjects shedding virus in urine, higher levels of urinary viral miRNAs were observed, compared to non-shedding seropositive subjects (P < 0.001). No correlation was observed between urinary and plasma miRNAs.


These data indicate that analysis of circulating viral miRNAs divulge the presence of latent JCPyV infection allowing further stratification of seropositive individuals. Also, our data indicate higher infection rates than would be expected from serology alone.

JC Polyomavirus; Viral microRNA; Circulating microRNA; Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy; Biomarker; Viral activity