Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is a solid tumor closely associated with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection. The purpose of this investigation was to detect and quantify the EBV DNA level in salivary samples of NPC patients following treatment using real-time PCR. A total of 175 consecutive newly diagnosed NPC patients' whole saliva samples were collected before treatment, and the EBV DNA level was measured by real-time PCR, with the primers and probe targeting the BamHI-W region of the EBV genome. The post-treatment salivary EBV DNA level was also assessed in 46 patients. The change of EBV DNA level before and after treatment and relationship of EBV DNA level to demographic data and tumor staging were tested by Wilcoxon signed-rank test and Mann-Whitney U test, respectively with the level of significance set at 0.05. The EBV detection rate of pre-treatment saliva samples was 80%. The EBV DNA level of post-treatment saliva samples was significantly higher than the pre-treatment ones (P<0.01). There is a trend that patients with advanced-stage showed a higher EBV DNA level than patients with early-stage. The detection of EBV DNA in saliva using real-time PCR might be a feasible and non-invasive method for early diagnosis of NPC.
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