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PLoS One. 2019 Feb 13;14(2):e0212027. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0212027. eCollection 2019.

EBV miRNA expression profiles in different infection stages: A prospective cohort study.

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Institute of Infectious Diseases and Infection Control, Jena University Hospital, Jena, Germany.
Institute of Medical Microbiology, Jena University Hospital, Jena, Germany.
Department of Haematology and Medical Oncology, Jena University Hospital, Jena, Germany.
Institute of Virology and Antiviral Therapy, Jena University Hospital, Jena, Germany.
Clinic for Children and Youth Medicine, Jena University Hospital, Jena, Germany.


The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) produces different microRNAs (miRNA) with distinct regulatory functions within the infectious cycle. These viral miRNAs regulate the expression of viral and host genes and have been discussed as potential diagnostic markers or even therapeutic targets, provided that the expression profile can be unambiguously correlated to a specific stage of infection or a specific EBV-induced disorder. In this context, miRNA profiling becomes more important since the roles of these miRNAs in the pathogenesis of infections and malignancies are not fully understood. Studies of EBV miRNA expression profiles are sparse and have mainly focused on associated malignancies. This study is the first to examine the miRNA profiles of EBV reactivation and to use a correction step with seronegative patients as a reference. Between 2012 and 2017, we examined the expression profiles of 11 selected EBV miRNAs in 129 whole blood samples from primary infection, reactivation, healthy carriers and EBV seronegative patients. Three of the miRNAs could not be detected in any sample. Other miRNAs showed significantly higher expression levels and prevalence during primary infection than in other stages; miR-BHRF1-1 was the most abundant. The expression profiles from reactivation differed slightly but not significantly from those of healthy carriers, but a specific marker miRNA for each stage could not be identified within the selected EBV miRNA targets.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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