Epstein-Barr virus in systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis—association and causation

Viruses. 2012 Dec;4(12):3701-30. doi: 10.3390/v4123701.


Epidemiological data suggest that the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is associated with several autoimmune diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. However, it is not clear whether EBV plays a role in the pathogenesis of these diseases, and if so, by which mechanisms the virus may contribute. In this review, we discuss possible viral and immunological mechanisms that might explain associations between EBV and autoimmune diseases and whether these associations represent causes or effects of inflammation and autoimmunity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / complications*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / etiology
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / pathogenicity*
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / complications*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / etiology
  • Multiple Sclerosis / complications*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / etiology