ROCHESTER, MN – Although not widely known, human pegivirus, also called GBV-C virus or hepatitis G virus-HGV, is globally prevalent and is believed to infect between one-sixth and one-third of the world’s population.

Past research has suggested that, in economically developed countries, HPgV RNA is detected in 1% to 4% healthy blood donors, with the presence of the virus even higher among those with risk of parenteral exposure including blood and blood products, hemodialysis, or among intravenous drug users. In fact, the medical community suggests that as many as 25% of hepatitis C-infected patients, 14% to 36% of drug users, and 16% to 42% of HIV-infected people could be infected with HPgV, which was discovered in 1995..

 Although no definitive association between HPgV infection and disease has been identified, previous studies have suggested an association of the a single-strand RNA virus belonging to the Flaviviridae  with risk of lymphomas.

To explore that, Mayo Clinic researchers and colleagues, including participation from the Iowa City, IA, VAMC, conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis, including a cohort study and 14 case-control studies, assessing the association of HPgV viremia with adult lymphomas.  Their results were published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.1

In terms of HPgV, the overall odds ratio for lymphoma was 2.85 (95% CI, 1.98-4.11), with statistically significantly elevated ORs observed in eight of 15 studies. Researchers note that the strongest association with lymphoma risk was observed for studies from Southern Europe (OR, 5.68 [95% CI, 1.98-16.3]), while weaker ORs (with 95% CIs) were observed for studies from North America (2.24 [1.76-2.85]), Northern Europe (2.90 [.45-18.7), and the Middle East (2.51 [.87-7.27]), but all of similar magnitude.

The study team also determined that participants with HPgV viremia had statistically significantly increased risks (OR [95% CI]) for developing diffuse large B-cell (3.29 [1.63-6.62]), follicular (3.01 [1.95-4.63]), marginal zone (1.90 [1.13-3.18]), and T-cell (2.11 [1.17-3.89]) lymphomas, while the risk for Hodgkin lymphoma (3.53 [.48-25.9]) and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (1.45 [.45-4.66]) were increased but did not achieve statistical significance.

“This meta-analysis supports a positive association of HPgV viremia with lymphoma risk, overall and for the major lymphoma subtypes,” researchers concluded.

1. Fama A, Larson MC, Link BK, et al. Human Pegivirus Infection and Lymphoma Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis [published online ahead of print, 2019 Oct 31]. Clin Infect Dis. 2019;ciz940. doi:10.1093/cid/ciz940