The occurrence of infection with a parvovirus-like agent during the period April 1979-May 1981 in children attending a single sickle cell clinic in London was investigated. Virus was detected in serum by counter-current immunoelectrophoresis (CIE) and immunoelectron microscopy (IEM). Viral antibody was detected by CIE and specific IgM antibody by an IgM-antibody capture assay. Of the 68 children studied nine presented in aplastic crisis and evidence of infection with the parvovirus-like agent at the time of the crisis was found in all nine. Eighteen of the other children were antibody-positive at some time during the study. In 11 children there was no evidence of recent infection; however, two of these had a history of aplastic crisis in previous years. The other seven seroconverted during the course of the study but did not show any haematological effects. Five of these had a primary infection, one appeared to have reinfection and in the seventh there were insufficient data to distinguish between the two. Possible explanations for the difference between those presenting with aplastic crisis and those with asymptomatic seroconversion are discussed.
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