The curious case of the tumour virus: 50 years of Burkitt's lymphoma

Nat Rev Microbiol. 2008 Dec;6(12):913-24. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro2015.


Burkitt's lymphoma (BL) was first described 50 years ago, and the first human tumour virus Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) was discovered in BL tumours soon after. Since then, the role of EBV in the development of BL has become more and more enigmatic. Only recently have we finally begun to understand, at the cellular and molecular levels, the complex and interesting interaction of EBV with B cells that creates a predisposition for the development of BL. Here, we discuss the intertwined histories of EBV and BL and their relationship to the cofactors in BL pathogenesis: malaria and the MYC translocation.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Africa
  • Apoptosis
  • Burkitt Lymphoma / etiology
  • Burkitt Lymphoma / history
  • Burkitt Lymphoma / virology*
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Nuclear Antigens / genetics
  • Genes, myc
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / genetics
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / isolation & purification
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / pathogenicity
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Malaria / complications
  • Malaria / history
  • Malaria / immunology
  • Models, Biological
  • Receptors, Notch / physiology
  • Signal Transduction
  • Translocation, Genetic


  • Epstein-Barr Virus Nuclear Antigens
  • Receptors, Notch
  • EBV-encoded nuclear antigen 1