JC virus

JC virus

The JC virus or John Cunningham virus (JCV) is a type of human polyomavirus (formerly known as papovavirus) and is genetically similar to BK virus and SV40. It was discovered in 1971 and named after the two initials of a patient with progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML). The virus causes PML and other diseases only in cases of immunodeficiency, as in AIDS, or immunosuppression, as in organ transplant patients.


The virus is very common in the general population, infecting 70 to 90 percent of humans; most people acquire JCV in childhood or adolescence . It is found in high concentrations in urban sewage worldwide, leading some researchers to suspect contaminated water as a typical route of infection .

Minor genetic variations are found consistently in different geographic areas; thus, genetic analysis of JC virus samples has been useful in tracing the history of human migration .

Infection and pathogenesis

The initial site of infection may be the tonsils, or possibly the gastrointestinal tract. The virus then remains latent in the gastrointestinal tract and can also infect the tubular epithelial cells in the kidneys, where it continues to reproduce, shedding virus particles in the urine.

JCV can cross the blood-brain barrier into the central nervous system, where it infects oligodendrocytes and astrocytes, possibly through the 5-HT2A serotonin receptor. JC viral DNA can be detected in both non-PML affected as well as PML-affected (see below) brain tissue.

Immunodeficiency or immunosuppression allows JCV to reactivate. In the brain it causes the usually fatal progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, or PML, by destroying oligodendrocytes. Whether this represents the reactivation of JCV within the CNS or seeding of newly reactivated JCV via blood or lymphatics is unknown. Several studies since 2000 have suggested that the virus is also linked to colorectal cancer, as JCV has been found in malignant colon tumors, but these findings are still controversial.

Drug Interactions

The boxed warning for the drug rituximab (Rituxan, co-marketed by Genentech BioOncology and Biogen Idec) includes that JC virus infection resulting in progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy and death has been reported in patients treated with the drug


External links

NCBI - JC Virus Complete Genome

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