Outcome of patients with positive Epstein-Barr virus serologic status in the absence of nasopharyngeal carcinoma in Hong Kong

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2004 Jun;130(6):770-2. doi: 10.1001/archotol.130.6.770.


Objective: To evaluate the current clinical practice of follow-up and the outcomes of patients with raised Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) antibody levels but without pathological evidence of nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) for a possible risk of developing NPC in the future.

Design: Retrospective review of prospectively collected database.

Setting: Tertiary referral otorhinolaryngology center.

Patients: The study population comprised 66 patients (27 male and 39 female; median age, 43.5 [range, 9-78] years) who presented in 1997 with a positive EBV IgA viral capsid antigen titer but a negative nasopharyngeal biopsy result.

Main outcome measures: The detection of NPC and EBV seroconversion rate.

Results: Of the 66 patients studied, 14 had a positive family history of NPC. Fourteen patients (27%) were excluded because of loss of contact or refusal of follow-up. The median follow-up period of the remaining 52 patients was 54.5 months (range, 12-64 months). Of these 52 patients, 39 (75%) had initial nasendoscopic finding described as completely normal. During the follow-up period, NPC was diagnosed in 1 patient (2%) 18 months after first biopsy. The initial nasendoscopy and histological findings in this patient were normal despite the patient having a raised EBV IgA VCA titer of 1:640. Overall, the EBV serologic status of 36 patients (69%) reverted to normal within the studied period (median interval of 54.5 [range, 12-64] months).

Conclusions: In the median follow-up period of 54.5 months, only 1 patient (2%) developed NPC. A significant proportion of the patients seroconverted back to normal, none of whom developed NPC.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood*
  • Capsid / immunology
  • Child
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / immunology*
  • Hong Kong
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin A / blood*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / virology*
  • Nasopharynx / virology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Serologic Tests
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Immunoglobulin A