Background: Serological examination of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) antibodies has been performed for screening nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) and other EBV-associated diseases.
Methods: By using xMAP technology, we examined immunoglobulin (Ig) A antibodies against Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) VCA-gp125, p18 and IgA/IgG against EA-D, EBNA1 and gp78 in populations with distinct diseases, or with different genetic or geographic background. Sera from Cantonese NPC patients (n = 547) and healthy controls (n = 542), 90 members of high-risk NPC families and 52 non-endemic healthy individuals were tested. Thirty-five of NPC patients were recruited to observe the kinetics of EBV antibody levels during and after treatment. Patients with other EBV-associated diseases were collected, including 16 with infectious mononucleosis, 28 with nasal NK/T cell lymphoma and 14 with Hodgkin's disease.
Results: Both the sensitivity and specificity of each marker for NPC diagnosis ranged 61-84%, but if combined, they could reach to 84.5% and 92.4%, respectively. Almost half of NPC patients displayed decreased EBV immunoactivities shortly after therapy and tumor recurrence was accompanied with high EBV antibody reactivates. Neither the unaffected members from high-risk NPC families nor non-endemic healthy population showed statistically different EBV antibody levels compared with endemic controls. Moreover, elevated levels of specific antibodies were observed in other EBV-associated diseases, but all were lower than those in NPC.
Conclusion: Combined EBV serological biomarkers could improve the diagnostic values for NPC. Diverse EBV serological spectrums presented in populations with different EBV-associated diseases, but NPC patients have the highest EBV activity.