Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-associated illnesses in posttransplant patients are difficult to diagnose. Attempts to aid in the diagnosis of such illnesses using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis for EBV have met with variable success due to the potential exquisite sensitivity of the assay. We have designed a relatively insensitive EBV PCR assay and compared the results with objective evidence of EBV activity including serologic response and in situ hybridization for the EBV genome. Eighty-five specimens from 65 patients were analyzed by the EBV PCR using DNA from whole blood. EBV serologic evaluation was done on 53 of the samples and in situ hybridization for EBV (EBER-I mRNA) on 46 paired liver biopsies. Of 85 samples, 25 (29%) were positive for EBV using the PCR assay. Intensity of amplification was graded O. 5-1+ (weak) to 3+ (strong). Using these criteria, 19 EBV PCR-positive samples were graded 0.5-1+, 5 were graded 2+, and I was graded 3+. Of the moderate to strongly positive samples (2 + or 3+), five of six had two or more EBER- 1-positive cells in the liver biopsies. Of the remaining 40 liver biopsies with either negative or weak positive PCR results, 3 had only .single cells positive for EBER-1; the remainder were negative. In addition, PCR positive results correlated with increasing EBV anti-early antigen antibody (P = .005) and viral capsid antigen IgG immunoglobulin G VCA (P = .05) EBV positive results using the PCR assay correlated with objective evidence for increased EBV burden in children after liver transplantation. These preliminary data suggest that this PCR test may be useful to help guide immunosuppressive therapy in the posttransplant patient. Further evaluation using larger numbers of patients will be necessary to confirm this.
- Epstein-Barr virus
- polymerase chain reaction
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health