Epstein-Barr virus also causes cancer

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Variant of the Epstein-Barr virus can cause cancer

The Epstein-Barr virus is one of the herpes viruses. Researchers from Heidelberg and Zurich recently discovered that regional variants of the virus trigger different diseases. According to this, the Epstein-Barr virus increases the risk of certain types of cancer in Asia and Africa, while in Europe the “kissing disease” in particular is a result of infection with the virus.

Variants of the Epstein-Barr virus carry different risks More than 90 percent of people carry the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). The infection is usually already in childhood or adolescence by droplet or contact infection, for example when kissing. The extent of the danger posed by the virus depends heavily on the strain of the pathogen. According to a new study, different variants of EBV behave differently and can also attack different body cells. This is what Henri-Jacques Delecluse from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and his Zurich colleagues report in the journal "Cell Reports". Vaccinations should therefore target the particularly aggressive strains of the virus, the researchers conclude.

While the pathogen in Europe can cause Pfeiffer's glandular fever - colloquially known as kissing disease - and usually takes a mild course of the disease, the virus increases the risk of Burkitt's lymphoma in Africa and nasopharyngeal cancer (nasopharyngeal cancer) in Southeast Asia. The cause seems to be due to differences in the genetic makeup of the virus.

Aggressive variant of the Epstein-Barr virus can attack epithelial cells in the mucous membranes Delecluse and his colleagues examined the EBV of a North American patient with glandular fever and a Chinese patient who was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal carcinoma. As it turned out, the American virus only infected the B cells of the immune system. Epithelial cells of the mucous membranes were also attacked very efficiently in the Chinese patient who carried the M18 virus variant.

The researchers were already aware of the differences in the genetic makeup of different variants of the EBV, but the scientists have only now found out that these also favor different diseases. "Our results have radically changed my attitude to how to deal with the problem of EBV-related diseases," said Delecluse to the news agency "dpa". “So far, we thought that the Epstein-Barr virus was the same all over the world. Now we know that there are different strains of the virus and that when developing vaccines, we have to focus on the strains that appear to be particularly aggressive. ”

Whistling glandular fever is mostly harmless In Europe, the EB virus mainly causes whistling glandular fever. Affected people, mostly adolescents, usually suffer from flu-like symptoms such as fever, swollen lymph nodes, severe fatigue and sore throat or tonsillitis. In addition, abdominal pain, headache, an enlarged spleen, loss of appetite, muscle pain, general weakness and fatigue, dizziness, chills, night sweats and other symptoms can occur. In many cases, infection with the EBV is symptom-free. (ag)

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Video: 50th anniversary of the EBV Epstein-Barr Virus link to cancer - Cancer Research UK

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