Short DNA sequences have been identified, originally in association with Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) biopsies, that are highly homologous to oncogenic, lymphotropic herpesviruses. Recently a virus, Kaposi sarcoma associated herpesvirus (KSHV) or human herpesvirus-8 (HHV-8), bearing these sequences has been identified in a cell line derived from a body cavity-based lymphoma. In this report, we show that the same sequences are present in KS biopsies as DNA molecules of a form and size characteristic of latent herpesviruses-large, covalently closed, circular episomes. The genomes migrate with an apparent size larger than the herpesvirus Epstein-Barr virus (172 kb). This form of the viral genome was found in four of four biopsies and three of five peripheral blood samples from KS patients. Linear forms of the viral genome, characteristic of viral replication, were not detected in the biopsies, but were present in the peripheral blood of three out of five patients. The sequences for KSHV/HHV-8 were also detected in the blood of four of five allograft patients and three of five healthy donors without KS suggesting that the virus is widespread throughout the human population.

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