Acute infection with Epstein-Barr virus targets and overwhelms the peripheral memory B-cell compartment with resting, latently infected cells

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Pediatrics; Program in Molecular Medicine

Publication Date


Document Type



Acute Disease; Adolescent; Adult; B-Lymphocytes; Herpesvirus 4, Human; Humans; *Immunologic Memory; Immunophenotyping; Infectious Mononucleosis; T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic; *Virus Latency; Virus Replication


Immunology and Infectious Disease | Pediatrics


In this paper we demonstrate that during acute infection with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), the peripheral blood fills up with latently infected, resting memory B cells to the point where up to 50% of all the memory cells may carry EBV. Despite this massive invasion of the memory compartment, the virus remains tightly restricted to memory cells, such that, in one donor, fewer than 1 in 10(4) infected cells were found in the naive compartment. We conclude that, even during acute infection, EBV persistence is tightly regulated. This result confirms the prediction that during the early phase of infection, before cellular immunity is effective, there is nothing to prevent amplification of the viral cycle of infection, differentiation, and reactivation, causing the peripheral memory compartment to fill up with latently infected cells. Subsequently, there is a rapid decline in infected cells for the first few weeks that approximates the decay in the cytotoxic-T-cell responses to viral replicative antigens. This phase is followed by a slower decline that, even by 1 year, had not reached a steady state. Therefore, EBV may approach but never reach a stable equilibrium.

DOI of Published Version



J Virol. 2004 May;78(10):5194-204. Link to article on publisher's website

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of virology

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PubMed ID