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Semin Diagn Pathol. 2015 Jan;32(1):12-22. doi: 10.1053/j.semdp.2014.12.001. Epub 2015 Feb 7.

Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-associated lymphoid lesions of the head and neck.

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Division of Hematopathology, The Joint Pathology Center, 606 Stephen Sitter Lane, Silver Spring, Maryland 20910.
Department of Pathology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia. Electronic address:


Epstein Barr virus (EBV)-related lymphoproliferative processes occur in the head and neck ranging from reactive processes such as infectious mononucleosis to high grade malignant lymphomas. EBV is a ubiquitous herpes virus that infects more than 90% of adults worldwide, and is generally transferred though saliva. Primary infection can occur throughout life. EBV is the first virus linked to malignancies, both epithelial and lymphoid. Both T and B cell lymphomas can be associated with EBV and evidence shows that an individual's response to the acute EBV infection may be critical in the development of subsequent lymphoma. Currently, in situ hybridization for EBER is the most sensitive available test to detect EBV and should be routinely performed in lymphoproliferative lesions of the head and neck. Immunohistochemistry for EBV related proteins, such as LMP1, is much less sensitive than EBER in situ hybridization, but can help determine latency patterns of EBV infection. Although relatively rare, primary EBV-related lymphomas must be considered in the differential of atypical lymphoid proliferations in the head and neck. We present selected EBV-related disorders of the head and neck discussing etiology as well as differential diagnosis.


Epstein-Barr virus; Extranodal lymphoma; Hodgkin lymphoma; Infectious mononucleosis; Non-Hodgkin lymphoma

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