The immunology of Epstein-Barr virus infection

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2001 Apr 29;356(1408):475-88. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2000.0784.


Epstein-Barr virus is a classic example of a persistent human virus that has caught the imagination of immunologists, virologists and oncologists because of the juxtaposition of a number of important properties. First, the ability of the virus to immortalize B lymphocytes in vitro has provided an antigen presenting cell in which all the latent antigens of the virus are displayed and are available for systematic study. Second, the virus presents an ideal system for studying the immune parameters that maintain latency and the consequences of disturbing this cell-virus relationship. Third, this wealth of immunological background has provided a platform for elucidating the role of the immune system in protection from viral-associated malignancies of B cell and epithelial cell origin. Finally, attention is now being directed towards the development of vaccine formulations which might have broad application in the control of human malignancies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Viral / immunology
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / blood
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / genetics
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / immunology*
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / prevention & control
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Nuclear Antigens / immunology
  • Genetic Variation
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / virology


  • Antigens, Viral
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Nuclear Antigens
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell