The role of the Epstein-Barr virus in the pathogenesis of some autoimmune disorders - Similarities and differences

G Füst
European Journal of Microbiology & Immunology 2011, 1 (4): 267-78
After a brief summary on the properties of the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), the course and latency stages of the infection, the characteristics of infectious mononucleosis (IM), and other disorders caused by this virus, as well as the course of the serological responses to EBV, the current paper focuses on the role of EBV in two autoimmune disorders: multiple sclerosis (MS), and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Diverse evidence suggests that infection by EBV during late childhood or young adulthood may have a role in the pathogenesis of MS. These include the similarity between the geographical distribution of IMand MS, the high risk of contracting MS by individuals who have recovered from IM, the elevation of the titers of IgG antibodies against EBV nuclear antigens occurring years before the initial manifestations of MS, and the extremely rare occurrence of MS in individuals seronegative for EBV. However, the data on the mechanism underlying the relationship between EBV and MS are controversial. Moreover, many observations indicate that EBV contributes also to the pathomechanism of SLE. However, this contribution differs from the relationship between EBV and MS, as shown by the lack of any increase in the risk of SLE after IM. In SLE, EBV serology is quantitatively and qualitatively different from the normal response - that is, EBV viral load is higher and a strong cross-reaction can be detected between certain EBV antigens and autoantigens of pathological importance. These observations, along with the findings pointing to a possible role of EBV in rheumatoid arthritis and myasthenia gravis indicate that infection by EBV may be one of the environmental factors, which can facilitate the development of some autoimmune disorders in genetically susceptible individuals.

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