Characteristics of viral protein expression by Epstein-Barr virus-infected B cells in peripheral blood of patients with infectious mononucleosis

H J Wagner, M Hornef, J Middeldorp, H Kirchner

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The frequency of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) antigen-positive B cells in the peripheral blood of patients with infectious mononucleosis compared with that for latently EBV-infected individuals was examined by immunocytochemistry. B cells positive for Epstein-Barr nuclear antigen (EBNA) 1, EBNA2, and latent membrane protein were frequently found in all peripheral B lymphocyte preparations from 25 patients suffering for 3 to 28 days from infectious mononucleosis by using monoclonal antibodies and the alkaline phosphatase anti-alkaline technique. There was a significant decrease in the number of positive B cells during the course of disease. EBNA1-positive B cells were detected in 0.01 to 2.5% of total B cells (median, 0.8%), EBNA2-positive B cells were detected in 0.01 to 4.5% of total B cells (median, 0.9%), and latent membrane protein-positive B cells were detected in 0.01 to 1.8% of total B cells (median, 0.5%), depending on the duration of clinical signs. In contrast, we did not find any EBNA1- or EBNA2-positive B cells in 2 x 10(6) peripheral blood B lymphocytes of 10 latently EBV-infected individuals, whereas aliquots of the same cell preparations were EBV DNA positive by a PCR assay. Therefore, it appears to be possible to detect infectious mononucleosis by immunocytochemical determination of latent EBV products, which might be of relevance for the diagnosis of EBV reactivations in immunosuppressed patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)696-9
Number of pages4
JournalClinical and diagnostic laboratory immunology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1995


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alkaline Phosphatase
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • B-Lymphocytes
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Indirect
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human
  • Humans
  • Infectious Mononucleosis
  • Journal Article
  • Male
  • Recurrence
  • Viral Proteins

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