Chronic active Epstein-Barr virus disease originates from infected hematopoietic stem cells

Blood. 2024 Jan 4;143(1):32-41. doi: 10.1182/blood.2023021074.


Chronic active Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) disease (CAEBV) is a lethal syndrome because of persistent EBV infection. When diagnosed as CAEBV, EBV infection was observed in multiple hematopoietic lineages, but the etiology of CAEBV is still elusive. Bone marrow and peripheral cells derived from 5 patients with CAEBV, 1 patient with EBV-associated hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, and 2 healthy controls were analyzed. Multiple assays were applied to identify and characterize EBV-infected cells, including quantitative polymerase chain reaction, PrimeFlow, and single-cell RNA-sequencing (scRNA-seq). Based on scRNA-seq data, alterations in gene expression of particular cell types were analyzed between patients with CAEBV and controls, and between infected and uninfected cells. One patient with CAEBV was treated with allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT), and the samples derived from this patient were analyzed again 6 months after HSCT. EBV infected the full spectrum of the hematopoietic system including both lymphoid and myeloid lineages, as well as the hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) of the patients with CAEBV. EBV-infected HSCs exhibited a higher differentiation rate toward downstream lineages, and the EBV infection had an impact on both the innate and adaptive immunity, resulting in inflammatory symptoms. EBV-infected cells were thoroughly removed from the hematopoietic system after HSCT. Taken together, multiple lines of evidence presented in this study suggest that CAEBV disease originates from the infected HSCs, which might potentially lead to innovative therapy strategies for CAEBV.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections*
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / genetics
  • Humans
  • Lymphohistiocytosis, Hemophagocytic* / complications