Molecular diagnosis of Epstein-Barr virus-related diseases

J Mol Diagn. 2001 Feb;3(1):1-10. doi: 10.1016/S1525-1578(10)60642-3.


Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is the causative agent of infectious mononucleosis, and it may also be found in a wide variety of benign and malignant lesions including oral hairy leukoplakia, inflammatory pseudotumor, Hodgkin's disease, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, nasopharyngeal carcinoma, and gastric carcinoma. Molecular testing is increasingly important in the diagnosis and monitoring of patients affected by these diseases. In biopsy tissues, molecular detection of EBV-encoded RNA transcripts by in situ hybridization remains the gold standard for proving that a histopathological lesion is EBV-related. EBV-encoded RNA hybridization and EBV LMP1 immunostains are used routinely to detect latent EBV in tissues affected by posttransplant lymphoproliferative disorder (PTLD) or in enlarged nodes from patients with infectious mononucleosis. Traditional serology is the best test for evaluating acute versus remote infection in healthy individuals. High serological titers serve as a tumor marker for some EBV-related malignancies, but titers are not a dependable tumor marker in immunocompromised hosts. EBV viral load testing by quantitative DNA amplification of blood samples is a promising new laboratory test that has proven useful for early diagnosis and monitoring patients with PTLD. Recent studies suggest a role for EBV viral load testing in nasopharyngeal carcinoma, Hodgkin's disease, and AIDS patients with brain lymphoma. Further research is needed to define more fully the clinical utility of viral load tests in the full spectrum of EBV-associated diseases. Gene expression profiling is on the horizon as a means to improve subclassification of EBV-related diseases and to predict response to therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / diagnosis*
  • Immunohistochemistry*
  • In Situ Hybridization*
  • Nucleic Acid Amplification Techniques*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction