Epstein-Barr virus load in the peripheral blood of patients with rheumatoid arthritis: accurate quantification using real-time polymerase chain reaction

Arthritis Rheum. 2003 May;48(5):1223-8. doi: 10.1002/art.10933.


Objective: To determine whether patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have elevated Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) load in their peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and whether it is correlated with the HLA-DR genes they express, we developed an accurate EBV DNA quantitative assay using real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) with fluorescent probes.

Methods: We studied the EBV DNA load in the PBMCs of 84 patients with RA, 69 normal controls, and 22 patients with rheumatic conditions other than RA. A 214-bp segment from the long internal repeat of EBV was amplified from 500 ng of PBMC DNA (150,000 cells) and quantified by real-time PCR with fluorescent probes.

Results: We demonstrated that in patients with RA, the EBV DNA load in PBMCs is increased almost 10-fold compared with that in normal controls. The EBV load is stable over time and is not obviously influenced by disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs or HLA-DR.

Conclusion: Patients with RA have elevated EBV load in their peripheral blood.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / blood
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / genetics
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / virology*
  • DNA, Viral / analysis
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / blood
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / complications*
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / genetics
  • Gene Dosage
  • HLA-DR Antigens / genetics
  • Haplotypes
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / genetics
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / virology
  • Reference Standards
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Viral Load


  • DNA, Viral
  • HLA-DR Antigens