The Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division's Dr. Joshua Hill is the recipient of the Biology of Blood and Marrow Transplantation's 2012 George Santos Award for best clinical science article by a new investigator.
The editors of the journal, a publication of the American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation, selected Hill, a senior fellow in VIDD's Clinical Research Program, for his article "Cord-Blood Hematopoietic Stem-Cell Transplantation Confers an Increased Risk for Human Herpesvirus-6-Associated Acute Limbic Encephalitis: A Cohort Analysis."
Hill found that patients who receive unrelated cord-blood transplants are at particularly high risk for reactivation of human herpesvirus-6. They are also at risk for an associated complication called post-transplantation acute limbic encephalitis. Together the two are called HHV-6-PALE for short.
"HHV-6 is a ubiquitous virus that irreversibly infects the majority of children by 2 years of age and usually remains dormant throughout a person's life," Hill said. "However, it has been associated with many conditions ranging from seizures to chronic fatigue syndrome. In our cancer patients with weakened immune systems who receive a stem cell transplant, it is particularly problematic and can cause a fatal central nervous system infection in up to 5 percent of certain patient groups."
Hill and colleagues analyzed 1,344 patients undergoing stem cell transplantation to identify risk factors and characteristics of HHV-6-PALE. The group included 1,243 adult-donor transplant recipients and 101 unrelated cord blood transplant recipients. They identified 19 cases of HHV-6-PALE that occurred in 10 percent of the cord blood transplant recipients and 0.7 percent of adult-donor transplant recipients. Death from HHV-6-PALE occurred in 50 percent of affected patients who underwent cord blood transplants. None of the adult-donor transplant recipients died from the syndrome.
The award honors the late Dr. George Santos, who in 1968 founded the bone marrow transplantation program at Johns Hopkins. The presentation of a plaque and $5,000 took place Feb. 15 during the American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation Awards and Business Meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah.