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Clinical and Developmental Immunology
Volume 2012, Article ID 370516, 10 pages
Review Article

Epstein-Barr Virus and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Department of Clinical Biochemistry and Immunology, Statens Serum Institut, ├śrestads Boulevard 5, 2300 Copenhagen, Denmark

Received 20 February 2012; Revised 23 March 2012; Accepted 14 April 2012

Academic Editor: Anne Davidson

Copyright © 2012 Anette Holck Draborg et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The etiology of SLE is not fully established. SLE is a disease with periods of waning disease activity and intermittent flares. This fits well in theory to a latent virus infection, which occasionally switches to lytic cycle, and EBV infection has for long been suspected to be involved. This paper reviews EBV immunobiology and how this is related to SLE pathogenesis by illustrating uncontrolled reactivation of EBV as a disease mechanism for SLE. Studies on EBV in SLE patients show enlarged viral load, abnormal expression of viral lytic genes, impaired EBV-specific T-cell response, and increased levels of EBV-directed antibodies. These results suggest a role for reactivation of EBV infection in SLE. The increased level of EBV antibodies especially comprises an elevated titre of IgA antibodies, and the total number of EBV-reacting antibody isotypes is also enlarged. As EBV is known to be controlled by cell-mediated immunity, the reduced EBV-specific T-cell response in SLE patients may result in defective control of EBV causing frequent reactivation and expression of lytic cycle antigens. This gives rise to enhanced apoptosis and amplified cellular waste load resulting in activation of an immune response and development of EBV-directed antibodies and autoantibodies to cellular antigens.