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A virus-free immunogen effective against Epstein-Barr virus


Epstein–Barr virus (EBV)-associated diseases—infectious mononucleosis (IM), nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) and Burkitt's lymphoma (BL)—constitute considerable world health problems. EBV infection occurs in all human populations and is accompanied by seroconversion and life-long persistence of the virus1. The antibodies present as a consequence of infection are considered important in controlling the persistent viral infection and in preventing recurrent bouts of IM which is known to be caused by the virus2. As EBV infection during childhood does not usually result in illness20, only seronegative adolescents and young adults are susceptible to IM. Similarly, the groups at risk to EBV-associated neoplasms are known. The first group includes children in areas of hyper- and holoendemic malaria in Africa3, where BL is the most common childhood cancer. The other group consists of people, particularly men, of the HLA-2 and Sin 2 haplotypes4, of southern Chinese origin amongst whom NPC is the most common tumour5. It has been suggested that an anti-EBV vaccine should be developed6, and this debate has been stimulated recently by a study further implicating EBV with African BL7. I report here the successful production of a DNA-free immunogen which may be readily prepared in large quantities and will successfully invoke a strong neutralising anti-EBV response in experimental animals. This material could form the basis for developing an anti-EBV vaccination programme.

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Thorley-Lawson, D. A virus-free immunogen effective against Epstein-Barr virus. Nature 281, 486–488 (1979).

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