Journal of Clinical Immunology

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 46–54 | Cite as

Immune function in chronic active Epstein-Barr virus infection

  • Ruthann Kibler
  • David O. Lucas
  • Mary Jane Hicks
  • Bonnie T. Poulos
  • James F. Jones
Original Articles


The spectrum of illness attributed to Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) includes patients with symptoms persisting for more than 1 year without any other obvious underlying disease. High titers of antibodies to EBV, either IgG anti-viral capsid antigen or anti-early antigen, can be demonstrated. In this study, 13 patients diagnosed as having chronic active EBV infection were examined to determine aspects of their immunologic status. Morphological examination and fluorescent antibody analysis revealed no abnormalities in the phenotypes of peripheral blood white cells present in these patients. Compared to those from healthy control individuals, mononuclear cells from the patients showed a markedly depressed ability to produce both interleukin-2 and interferon after stimulation with mitogen and a phorbol ester. Studies of natural killer (NK) cell activity revealed that unfractionated mononuclear cells from patients with chronic active EBV infection were significantly lower in killing activity compared to the control group. Fractionation procedures to enrich for large granular lymphocytes resulted in an increase in NK activity for all individuals, but killing activity still remained slightly lower in the patients than in the control group. The dysfunctions which were found in patients with chronic active EBV infection may reflect a primary defect in natural immune functions of the patients predisposing them to a chronic or intermittent clinical disease rather than a self-limiting illness. Alternatively, the abnormalities detected in these experiments may be a result of the viral infection itself.

Key words

Natural killer (NK) cell interferon interleukin-2 chronic active Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ruthann Kibler
    • 1
  • David O. Lucas
    • 1
  • Mary Jane Hicks
    • 2
  • Bonnie T. Poulos
    • 1
  • James F. Jones
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Microbiology and ImmunologyUniversity of Arizona, College of Medicine, and Southwestern Clinic and Research InstituteTucson
  2. 2.Department of PathologyUniversity of Arizona, College of MedicineTucson
  3. 3.Department of PediatricsNational Jewish Hospital and Research CenterDenver

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