Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) load and cytokine gene expression in activated T cells of chronic active EBV infection

J Infect Dis. 2001 Jan 1;183(1):1-7. doi: 10.1086/317653. Epub 2000 Nov 21.


To identify the role of T cells in chronic active Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection, EBV and cytokine gene expression was quantified by use of real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) among 6 patients who fulfilled the diagnostic criteria for chronic active EBV infection. Four of these patients showed clonal expansion of EBV-infected T cells. Quantitative PCR for EBV DNA in peripheral blood of patients with symptomatic chronic active EBV infection showed higher copy numbers of virus (mean, 1.45 x 10(5) copies/mL) than were seen in blood from patients with infectious mononucleosis (3.08 x 10(3) copies/mL) or with EBV-associated hemophagocytosis (2.95 x 10(4) copies/mL). Fractionated CD3(+) HLA-DR(+) cells from patients with chronic active EBV infection contained higher copy numbers than did CD3(+) HLA-DR(-) cells. Quantitative PCR for cytokines revealed that interferon-gamma, interleukin (IL)-2, IL-10, and transforming growth factor-beta genes were expressed at higher levels in HLA-DR(+) than in HLA-DR(-) T cells. These results suggest that activated T cells in chronic active EBV infection expressed high levels of EBV DNA and both Th1 and Th2 cytokines. EBV-infected T cells may contribute to the unbalanced cytokine profiles of chronic mononucleosis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • CD3 Complex / analysis
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cytokines / analysis*
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • DNA, Viral / analysis
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / blood
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / immunology*
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • HLA-DR Antigens / analysis
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / genetics
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Interferon-gamma / analysis
  • Interleukin-10 / analysis
  • Interleukin-10 / genetics
  • Interleukin-2 / analysis
  • Interleukin-2 / genetics
  • Male
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / virology
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / analysis
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / genetics


  • CD3 Complex
  • Cytokines
  • DNA, Viral
  • HLA-DR Antigens
  • Interleukin-2
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Interleukin-10
  • Interferon-gamma