EBV and Lupus

How Does EBV Cause Autoimmune Disease?

The virus settles into the cells of the immune system called B cells. However, it isn't active the entire time. It becomes dormant or it triggers other autoimmune illnesses. In order for the body to keep the virus latent, another immune cell is required.

The T cells play a major pole in the healthy function of the immune system. EBV interferes with both of these immune cells, B and T, which can lead to autoimmune reactions in the form of diseases.

The EBV/SLE Connection

Recent research has now made the link between EBV and systemic lupus erythematorisus (SLE), commonly known as lupus. Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that is potentially debilitating, affecting more women than men.

Additionally, it appears that lupus is more common in African Americans who tend to develop the disease earlier and often have a more severe course of disease than other races.

Lupus presents with these symptoms:

· Joint aches

· Muscle aches

· Feeling tired

· Skin rash, especially after exposure to the sun

· Associated heart problems

· Blood clotting problems

· Issues with the lungs, kidneys and nervous system

Research into the Lupus Connection

In order to determine if there was a connection between EBV and lupus, a group of researchers in North and South Carolina compared the frequency of EBV antibodies in blood samples from lupus patients with a control group.

The results indicated a strong association of EBV-IgA antibodies with lupus in African-American people. The findings help to further the concept of a T-cell response gene that may have an impact upon immune response to EBV in people with lupus.

The study was based upon 230 patients all recently diagnosed with lupus. 90 percent were women, 60 percent were African-American. Of the control group, 30 percent were also African-American in order to represent racial distribution. All involved gave blood samples.

A higher incidence of EBV-IgG antibodies was seen in African-Americans, implying a history of EBV infection, than in white subjects. Another antibody, EBV-IgA, which occurs with repeated or reactivated EBV infection, was also more frequent in African-Americans with lupus.

There was also a genetic variation of a particular protein (CTLA-4) that works on T cells in regulating immunity observed in both African-American and white lupus patients.

This study provided blood-serum-based evidence of the connection between lupus and the Epstein-Barr virus. More research is encouraged into the role of race, age, and genetics as they relate to autoimmune diseases.


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