Seroepidemiology of EBV and interpretation of the "isolated VCA IgG" pattern

J Med Virol. 2009 Feb;81(2):325-31. doi: 10.1002/jmv.21373.


The presence of VCA IgG in the absence of VCA IgM and EBNA-1 IgG antibodies makes classifying EBV infection more difficult as this serological picture can be seen in the case of past infection with EBNA-1 IgG loss or non-appearance, or acute infections with the early disappearance or delayed onset of VCA IgM. The aim of this study was to assess the prevalence of this pattern in 2,422 outpatients with suspected EBV infection examined in 2005-2006, and to interpret its significance by means of immunoblotting. One hundred and seventy-seven (7.3%) of the patients were VCA IgG-positive, VCA IgM-negative and EBNA-1 IgG-negative, 15 of whom (8.5%) presented with heterophile antibodies. Analysis by age class showed that the prevalence of isolated VCA IgG ranged from 4.5% in the subjects aged 1-10 years to 9% in those aged >60 years. Immunoblotting allowed 18.9% of the cases to be classified as acute and 81.1% as past infections, the latter being observed in about 37% of the patients aged less than 10 years and in 100% of those aged >30 years. Therefore, in our case series, the presence of isolated VCA IgG was associated usually with past infection, particularly among adults. In children aged less than 10 years, it was associated mainly with acute infection but as past infection may be present in about one-third of such children, this possibility should not be overlooked.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood*
  • Antibodies, Viral / immunology
  • Antigens, Viral / immunology
  • Capsid Proteins / immunology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / immunology
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / virology*
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Nuclear Antigens / immunology
  • Female
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / classification
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / immunology*
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood*
  • Immunoglobulin G / immunology
  • Infant
  • Infectious Mononucleosis / immunology
  • Infectious Mononucleosis / virology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies
  • Young Adult


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Antigens, Viral
  • Capsid Proteins
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Nuclear Antigens
  • Epstein-Barr viral capsid antigen
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • EBV-encoded nuclear antigen 1