The Epstein-Barr Virus

The Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) is the cause of Epstein-Barr Disease (EBD), commonly called mononucleosis or glandular fever. The illness is most common in teenagers and young adults, although it can occur in children and the elderly. Most people have had EBV by age 40. 

Symptoms of EBV may include sore throat, swollen lymph glands, fatigue, fever, headache, nausea and gastrointestinal upsets. Complications can include liver and spleen enlargement, secondary infections like strep throat and pneumonia, inflammation of the heart and brain, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. There is an association between EBV and Multiple Sclerosis (MS), and many cancers, although the trigger for development of these diseases is still unknown.

EBV is transmitted via saliva through kissing, sharing of drinks, eating utensils and lipsticks. The incubation period is 30-50 days from exposure to the virus to symptoms appearing. The virus is shed from the throat of an infected person during the active phase of the illness. It can also be shed intermittently from the throat of a healthy carrier who shows no symptoms.

EBV is a member of the Herpes family. Once the virus has been contracted, it remains in the body for life. Most people get over the initial infection within a couple of weeks to a month. However, in some people there is a recurrence of symptoms for months or years after the initial infection.

Conventional treatment of EBV is rest, plenty of fluids and painkillers to relieve the symptoms. Antibiotics are of no use treating this illness because it is caused by a virus, not bacteria.

(reference link)

EBV-Associated Diseases

EBV has been determined to be the pathogenic agent (i.e., a virus that is capable of causing disease) for many diseases, both infectious and cancerous. (reference link) It is the source of mononucleosis, acute EBV – associated hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (EBV-HLH), and the cause of many cases of Burkitt’s lymphoma, B-cell lymphomas, some T-cell lymphomas, including NK T-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, some gastric carcinomas, Hodgkin’s disease, X-linked lymphoproliferative syndrome, nasopharyngeal carcinoma, and oral hairy leukoplakia.  Many of these diseases are rare and fatal and are caused by reactivation of the latent Epstein-Barr virus. EBV causes many very serious and life threatening diseases; however, the MCMF will focus its attention on cures for EBV-HLH and NK-T-cell lymphoma from which Matt suffered.

Researchers (reference link) have determined that in Western countries, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and infectious mononucleosis are the most common EBV-associated diseases, whereas some EBV-associated lymphoproliferative diseases, especially those associated T-lymphocytes or natural killer (NK) cells, are most prevalent in Asian and Latin American countries. For example, T or NK cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas have been determined to be the most common forms of EBV-positive non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas  in a recent  clinicopathology study of  Korean patients with a spectrum of  EBV positive lymphoproliferative diseases. In addition, researchers have determined that primary EBV infections in early childhood are complicated by the development of chronically active EBV infections that are the main predisposing factors for EBV – associated T and NK cell malignancies in young adults.

Internet/Website References

Adoptive T-Cell Therapy for EBV-Associated Post–Transplant Lymphoproliferative Disease, Catherine M. Bollard,
Barbara Savoido, Cliona M. Rooney, Helen E, Heslop. Presented at Center for Cell and Gene Therapy,
Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas USA • Acta Haematol 2003;110:139-148 (DOI: 10.1159/000072463)

Brown University, Biology 160, Project 2000 on Herpes, EBV and EBV Vaccines.

The Spectrum of Epstein-Barr Virus-Associated Lymphoproliferative Disease in Korea: Incidence of Disease Entities
by Age Groups • Eun-Yoon Cho, Ki-Hyun Kim,* Won-Seog Kim,* Keon Hee Yoo, Hong-Hoe Koo, and Young-Hyeh Ko • Journal of Korean Medical Science, April 2000: 185-192. • PMCID: PNC2526432. Published on line 2008 April 20. DOI: 10.3346/jkms.2008.23.2.185

Emerging Infectious Diseases, Center for Disease Control, Hemophagocytic Syndromes and Infection. David N. Fisman,
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Vol. 6, No. 6 • Nov–Dec 2000, Patients Against Lymphoma –Types of Lymphoma, What is Lymphoma?

NK T-Cell Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Cyberfamily, and  National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cellular Classification of
Adult Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma


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