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Open Access Research article

Seroprevalence of varicella-zoster virus and predictors for seronegativity in the Amsterdam adult population

Gini GC van Rijckevorsel1*, Marjolein Damen2, Gerard J Sonder13, Maarten F Schim van der Loeff34 and Anneke van den Hoek13

Author Affiliations

1 Public Health Service Amsterdam, Department of Infectious Diseases, Nieuwe Achtergracht 100, 1018 WT, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

2 Public Health Laboratory, Cluster of Infectious Diseases, Public Health Service of Amsterdam, Nieuwe Achtergracht 100, 1018 WT, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

3 Academic Medical Centre, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, Tropical Medicine and AIDS, Meibergdreef 9, 1105 AZ, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

4 Public Health Service Amsterdam, Cluster Infectious Diseases, Department of Research, Nieuwe Achtergracht 100, 1018 WT, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2012, 12:140  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-12-140

Published: 21 June 2012

Abstract

Background

In the Netherlands, infection with varicella-zoster virus (VZV) is considered a benign common childhood illness and routine vaccination against VZV is not done. In 1995 it was estimated that 98-100% of the adult Dutch general population is immune, yet the estimate is based on a database in which a relative small number of people of non-Dutch ethnic origin were represented. As the city of Amsterdam has large immigrant communities originating from various subtropical and tropical countries, such as Morocco, Surinam, and Turkey with probably lower VZV transmission, this study aimed to estimate the seroprevalence of VZV IgG antibodies (anti-VZV) among various ethnic groups in Amsterdam, and identify factors associated with seronegative VZV status.

Methods

The study was a cross-sectional survey of the Amsterdam population (2004), and the study sample was stratified by age and ethnicity, with deliberate oversampling of minority ethnic groups. Serum samples obtained from 1,341 residents in 2004 were tested for antibodies to VZV. Basic demographic data (gender, age, country of birth, age at immigration and number of children) were also available.

Results

The anti-VZV seroprevalence in the overall Amsterdam population was estimated to be 94% (95% confidence intervals; 92–96%). Regarding ethnic origin, first generation immigrants (Moroccan immigrants 90%, Surinamese or Antillean immigrants 91%, and Turkish 92%), especially those that migrated after the age of 11 years, were more likely to be anti-VZV seronegative compared to those arriving at an earlier age or those born in the Netherlands (97–98%). Both ethnic origin and generation of immigration were positive predictors for IgG seronegativity to VZV (p<0.015). No other predictors for seronegativity were found.

Conclusion

The results of this study imply that about 4–8% of the general adult Amsterdam population is still susceptible to infection with VZV, and that susceptibility is even higher in some immigrant groups. When assessing the risk of infection after VZV exposure alertness is needed for vulnerable persons like pregnant women, patients with hematological malignancies or organ transplants in particular among first-generation immigrants.