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Lancet Infect Dis. 2003 Mar;3(3):131-40.

Epstein-Barr virus-recent advances.

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University of Edinburgh, Summerhall, Edinburgh, UK.


Epstein-Barr virus is a tumorigenic herpes virus that is ubiquitous in the adult population. The virus is generally spread to and between young children through salivary contact, and only causes clinical illness where primary infection is delayed until adolescence or beyond, when an intense immunopathological reaction leads to the symptoms of infectious mononucleosis in roughly 50% of cases. More than 90% of the world's population carry Epstein-Barr virus as a life-long, latent infection of B lymphocytes. Recent data show that by mimicking B-cell antigen-activation pathways the virus enters the long-lived memory B lymphocyte pool where it evades immune elimination by severely restricting its own gene expression. By influencing B-cell survival mechanisms Epstein-Barr virus may induce tumours such as B lymphoproliferative disease and Hodgkin's disease. Vaccines are being developed to prevent and/or treat these conditions, but an animal model is required to study pathogenesis before a rational vaccine strategy can be formulated.

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