The Complexity of the Epstein-Barr Virus Infection in Humans


Microbiology and Tumor Biology Center (MTC), Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden


The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) was isolated 40 years ago from cultures of Burkitt lymphoma cells (BL). The tumor was encountered in Africa and exhibited characteristical geographical, clinical and pathological features. Serological studies revealed that the virus is ubiquitous in humans. The primary infection is often accompanied by the syndrome of acute infectious mononucleosis (IM). It can induce malignant proliferation of B lymphocytes in conditions of immunodeficiency. EBV can immortalize B lymphocytes in culture. These cells carry the virus as episomes and express 9 virally encoded proteins. Their immunological recognition constitutes the surveillance which is responsible for the healthy virus carrier state. The main virus reservoir is represented by a low number of resting B lymphocyte which contain the viral genome but do not express its transformation proteins. The viral genom is detectable in all African BLs, in variable proportions of nasopharyngeal carcinoma, Hodgkin's disease, T cell lymphoma, lymphoepithelial like carcinoma, gastric carcinoma and leiomyosarcoma cases. The role of EBV in the genesis of these tumors is unknown. Pathology & Oncology Research, Vol 4, Nr 1, 3-7, 1998

Key words: EBV; infections mononucleosis; immune response

Received: Jan 19, 1998; accepted: Jan 26, 1998
Correspondence: Eva KLEIN, Microbiology and Tumor Biology Center (MTC), Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm S-17177, Sweden

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