Plasma cortisol levels and reactivation of latent Epstein-Barr virus in response to examination stress

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 1994;19(8):765-72. doi: 10.1016/0306-4530(94)90023-x.


In this study, we explored the possibility that glucocorticoid hormones, known to increase under stress, might be one component of the mechanism involved in induction of latent Epstein Barr virus (EBV). We obtained blood samples from 45 male medical students during examinations and approximately 3-4 weeks before the examinations (baseline) and measured antibody titers to EBV and plasma cortisol levels. We found reproducible changes in EBV, virus capsid antigen (VCA) antibody titers, with higher antibody titers observed in the examination blood samples consistent with the reactivation of latent virus. However, we found no evidence that day and night plasma cortisol values across the sampling points changed significantly from baseline to examinations. Therefore, academic stress did not elevate cortisol levels, but increases in EBV VCA antibody titers were still observed. The data suggest in these subjects that other neuropeptides or hormones were involved in the induction of latent EBV.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Viral / immunology
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / growth & development*
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / immunology
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood*
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood
  • Infectious Mononucleosis / immunology*
  • Infectious Mononucleosis / psychology
  • Male
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Stress, Psychological / immunology
  • Virus Activation / physiology*
  • Virus Replication / physiology


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Hydrocortisone