Stress-related Epstein-Barr virus reactivation

Clin Exp Med. 2010 Mar;10(1):15-20. doi: 10.1007/s10238-009-0063-z. Epub 2009 Sep 25.


Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) remains latent in 90% of the patients following primary infection. The infection might be reactivated due to various stress factors. We, therefore, examined the levels of stress hormones (epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol), viral capsid antigen (VCA) immunoglobulin Ig G, VCA IgM, EBV early antigen IgG, Epstein-Barr nuclear antigen (EBNA) IgG, EBNA IgM antibody screening tests and performed EBV polymerized chain reaction (PCR) test and EBV DNA PCR in 100 draftees on their first day of recruitment and at the end of 1 month. Examination of the initial samples revealed that 94 (94%) subjects previously had EBV infection and 6 (6%) were seronegative. Second samples obtained at the end of first month showed that 7 (7.4%) reactivations occurred in 94 subjects who previously had EBV infection (P < 0.001). Two out of six (33.3%) who were initially seronegative had acute infection (P = 0.289). There was no significant difference between the median values of the levels of stress hormones in the initial and second serum and plasma samples. There was a significant difference between the rates of acute infection and reactivation among subjects with elevated cortisol and epinephrine levels in the second samples compared to subjects with normal levels (P < 0.001). No significant difference was determined between the first and second sample hormone levels of all nine subjects whose EBV-DNA turned positive. Routine examinations might not reveal any specific findings since EBV infection often has an asymptomatic course. EBV reactivations should always be kept in mind in patients subject to such stressful conditions.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic Agonists / blood
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood
  • Antigens, Viral / blood
  • DNA, Viral / blood
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / virology*
  • Female
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / pathogenicity*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Military Personnel
  • Stress, Physiological*
  • Virus Activation*
  • Young Adult


  • Adrenergic Agonists
  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Antigens, Viral
  • DNA, Viral