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Semin Diagn Pathol. 2013 May;30(2):130-6. doi: 10.1053/j.semdp.2012.08.009. Epub 2013 Mar 26.

Viral-associated lymphoid proliferations.

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National Cancer Institute, NIH, Bethesda, MD, USA.


The histological spectrum of viral-associated lymphoid proliferations is quite broad, ranging from reactive lymphadenitis to atypical proliferations mimicking classical Hodgkin lymphoma or non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Virally associated reactive lesions can appear quite alarming on histological examination, because of direct (cytopathic) and indirect viral-induced changes eliciting a polymorphic cellular host response. In addition, the atypical lymphoid proliferation may show aberrant phenotypic features as well as restricted/clonal gene immunoglobulin or T-cell receptor rearrangements, further complicating the interpretation. In order to achieve an accurate diagnosis, it is important to be aware of the clinical history, including family history and ethnic background, clinical presentation, symptoms, and extent of the disease. Among the clinical data, particular emphasis should be placed on serology and viral load studies, and the use of immunosuppressive drugs. The clinical course and outcome vary greatly, from an indolent, self-limited to aggressive clinical course, blurring at times the distinction between neoplastic and reactive proliferations. It is now recognized that immunosenescence also plays a significant role in the development of these viral-associated lymphoid proliferations, and new entities have been described in recent years. In this review we discuss mostly Epstein-Barr virus-associated viral proliferations that may be confused with lymphomas, which the practicing pathologist may encounter.

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