Early-life EBV infection protects against persistent IgE sensitization

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2010 Feb;125(2):433-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2009.09.033. Epub 2009 Dec 5.


Background: Infection with EBV has previously been implicated in influencing allergic disorders, but its precise role remains contradictory. The timing of primary infection may contribute to the discrepancies.

Objective: This study aimed at investigating whether the time-point of primary EBV infection during childhood could be of importance in modulating the risk of developing IgE sensitization.

Methods: A total of 219 Swedish infants were followed prospectively to 5 years of age with clinical examinations, skin prick testing, specific IgE analyses, and determination of serostatus against EBV.

Results: After analysis of the children's EBV serostatus, we found that 5-year-olds who were infected with EBV before the age of 2 years were at a significantly lower risk of being persistently IgE-sensitized-that is, sensitized at both 2 and 5 years of age (adjusted odds ratio, 0.34; 95% CI, 0.12-0.94). In contrast, contraction of EBV after 2 years of age was highly associated with late-onset IgE sensitization (adjusted odds ratio, 4.64; 95% CI, 1.57-13.69). Persistently sensitized 5-year-olds had higher specific-IgE levels than children with late-onset IgE sensitization (P < .01).

Conclusion: Our data support the value of early-life microbial exposure for protection against the development of IgE sensitization and underscore the proximate postnatal years as an important period during which EBV could contribute to an allergo-protective immune profile.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age of Onset
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood
  • Antibodies, Viral / immunology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / immunology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / immunology*
  • Immunoglobulin E / blood
  • Immunoglobulin E / immunology*
  • Male
  • Skin Tests


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Immunoglobulin E