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Blood. 2000 Jul 15;96(2):443-51.

Fulminant EBV(+) T-cell lymphoproliferative disorder following acute/chronic EBV infection: a distinct clinicopathologic syndrome.

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  • 1Hematopathology Section, Laboratory of Pathology, National Cancer Institute, and Laboratory of Clinical Investigation, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.


This study describes the clinicopathologic features of 5 patients who developed a fulminant Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-positive clonal T-cell lymphoproliferative disorder (LPD) after acute EBV infection. One additional patient developed a similar disorder in the setting of long-standing chronic active EBV infection. Detailed immunophenotyping, in situ hybridization for EBV early RNA-1 (EBER1) and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analyses for immunoglobulin (Ig) heavy chain and T-cell receptor (TCR)-gamma gene rearrangements were performed on paraffin-embedded tissue from all patients. In addition, EBV strain typing and detection of the characteristic 30-bp deletion of the latent membrane protein-1 (LMP-1) gene were performed by PCR. Controls included 8 cases of uncomplicated infectious mononucleosis (IM). Patients included 4 males and 2 females with a median age of 18 years (2-37 years). Three patients were Mexican, 2 were white, and 1 was of Asian descent. All presented with fever, hepatosplenomegaly, and pancytopenia; 5 were previously healthy, but had a clinical history of a recent viral-like upper respiratory illness (1 week to 2 months), and 1 patient had documented chronic active EBV infection for 7 years. Serologic data for EBV were incomplete but titers were either negative or only modestly elevated in 3 cases. In 1 case serology was consistent with severe chronic active EBV infection. In the remaining 2 cases serologic studies were not performed. All patients died within 7 days to 8 months of presentation with T-cell LPD. On histologic examination, the liver and spleen showed prominent sinusoidal and portal lymphoid infiltrates of CD3(+), beta F1(+), EBER1(+) T cells lacking significant cytologic atypia. Two cases were CD4(+), 2 cases were CD8(+), and 2 cases had admixed CD4(+) and CD8(+) cells without clear subset predominance. All were TIA-1(+), CD56(-). Only rare B cells were noted. Marked erythrophagocytosis was present. Molecular analysis revealed identical T-cell clones in 2 or more sites (liver, spleen, lymph node) in 5 cases. All patients carried type A EBV; 4 cases had wild-type EBV-LMP, and 2 showed the 30-bp deletion. This fulminant T-cell LPD after acute/chronic EBV infection is characterized by hepatosplenomegaly, often without significant lymphadenopathy, fever, liver failure, pancytopenia, and erythrophagocytosis indicative of a hemophagocytic syndrome. EBV serology may be misleading, with lack of elevated titers. The presence of an EBER1(+) T-cell infiltrate with scant B cells should alert one to this diagnosis. Although cytologic atypia is minimal, studies for T-cell clonality confirm the diagnosis. (Blood. 2000;96:443-451)

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