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Pepper mild mottle virus, a plant virus associated with specific immune responses, Fever, abdominal pains, and pruritus in humans

Journal title
PloS one
Publication year
Colson, P.; Richet, H.; Desnues, C.; Balique, F.; Moal, V.; Grob, J. J.; Berbis, P.; Lecoq, H.; Harle, J. R.; Berland, Y.; Raoult, D.

BACKGROUND: Recently, metagenomic studies have identified viable Pepper mild mottle virus (PMMoV), a plant virus, in the stool of healthy subjects. However, its source and role as pathogen have not been determined. METHODS AND FINDINGS: 21 commercialized food products containing peppers, 357 stool samples from 304 adults and 208 stool samples from 137 children were tested for PMMoV using real-time PCR, sequencing, and electron microscopy. Anti-PMMoV IgM antibody testing was concurrently performed. A case-control study tested the association of biological and clinical symptoms with the presence of PMMoV in the stool. Twelve (57%) food products were positive for PMMoV RNA sequencing. Stool samples from twenty-two (7.2%) adults and one child (0.7%) were positive for PMMoV by real-time PCR. Positive cases were significantly more likely to have been sampled in Dermatology Units (p<10(-6)), to be seropositive for anti-PMMoV IgM antibodies (p = 0.026) and to be patients who exhibited fever, abdominal pains, and pruritus (p = 0.045, 0.038 and 0.046, respectively). CONCLUSIONS: Our study identified a local source of PMMoV and linked the presence of PMMoV RNA in stool with a specific immune response and clinical symptoms. Although clinical symptoms may be imputable to another cofactor, including spicy food, our data suggest the possibility of a direct or indirect pathogenic role of plant viruses in humans.

Research abstracts