BACKGROUND Parvovirus B19 is the aetiological agent of erythema infectiosum. The presence of B19 DNA in lesional skin of other cutaneous manifestations has frequently been reported although there is disagreement on the role of the B19 virus in tissues. OBJECTIVES To investigate the presence of B19 DNA (1) in skin lesions of patients with a described B19-related disease, (2) in skin lesions of B19-unrelated diseases and (3) in healthy skin. METHODS A total of 121 skin samples were examined for the presence of B19 DNA by PCR assays and peptide-nucleic-acid-based in situ hybridisation techniques. RESULTS B19 DNA was detected in 11/38 (28.9%) pityriasis lichenoides, 8/30 (26.7%) melanocytic naevi, 5/29 (17.2%) primary melanomas and 6/24 (25.0%) healthy skin biopsies. A difference in B19 DNA prevalence was observed in specimens grouped according to age, irrespective of pathologies. CONCLUSIONS B19 DNA can be found in skin tissues of patients with pityriasis lichenoides as well as in lesions not related to B19 infection and in healthy controls. B19 DNA can be detected in skin of young subjects in a significantly high rate compared to adults, suggesting that viral persistence may be the usual outcome after primary infection.