The role of Epstein-Barr virus in acute and chronic hepatitis

Institute of Pathology, University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany.
Journal of Hepatology (Impact Factor: 11.34). 06/2006; 44(5):879-85. DOI: 10.1016/j.jhep.2006.02.006
Source: PubMed


Epstein-Barr virus has a seroprevalence of more than 80% world wide and is known to be associated with hepatitis. However, little is known about the underlying pathogenesis and immunmechanisms and no standard diagnostic criteria to diagnose EBV-hepatitis are available.
We collected liver biopsies (n=21) with the tentative diagnosis of EBV induced hepatitis according to pathological changes and traceable EBV genome by PCR. Correlation with serological data revealed acute in seven cases, convalescent in two cases, past EBV infection in six cases. Viral RNA was visualised by in situ hybridisation within nuclei of lymphocytes.
In seven of 68 liver biopsies with the diagnosis 'liver disease of unknown aetiology' EBV genome in the tissue was demonstrated indicating a possible role for EBV in the induction of hepatitis or a trapping of infected lymphocytes within the liver. In a control group of 20 EBV-seropositive patients with steatohepatitis EBV-DNA PCR of the liver tissue was negative. Immunohistochemistry identified CD3 and CD8 positive T-lymphocytes as the main lymphocytic infiltrate in EBV hepatitis.
EBV hepatitis should be taken into consideration in case of typical histopathological changes and a positive DNA PCR of liver biopsy. Serological confirmation of the diagnosis is inevitable.

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    • "Cholestatic liver disease due to EBV infection, characterized predominantly by elevation of serum alkaline phosphatase and bilirubin, is uncommon [2–4,7,8]. In addition, chronic hepatitis linked to EBV infection has rarely been reported and in general was not well documented [9] [10]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) infection has the potential to establish life-long, benign infections in their hosts. Although biochemical evidence of hepatocellular damage is common, jaundice is uncommon and complete recovery is the rule. The present study describes clinical characteristics and changes of liver function tests during the course of infectious mononucleosis. All immunocompetent patients with hepatic dysfunction associated with acute EBV infection, cared for at the University Hospital of Heraklion, over a 6-year period, were identified and retrospectively studied. The study included 41 patients with a median age of 18.5 (15-51) years. Aspartate-aminotransferase (AST) and alanine-aminotransferase (ALT) were increased in an average maximum of 5-fold. Both transaminase levels started to rise 2 days after the clinical onset of the disease, and returned to normal after a period of 20 days. Alkaline-phosphatase (ALP), γ-glutamyltransferase (γ-GT) and bilirubin levels also increased above the normal values during the course of the disease and returned to normal after a period of 20, 30 and 22 days respectively. The changes of mean AST and ALT levels over time were statistically significant, while those of mean ALP, γ-GT and bilirubin levels over time were not. Anicteric cholestatic liver disease was observed in 24 patients (59%), while icteric only in 2 (6%). Liver involvement in acute EBV infection represents mild and self-limited hepatitis with predominantly cholestatic features.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2011 · European Journal of Internal Medicine

  • No preview · Article · Jun 2006 · Journal of Hepatology
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    ABSTRACT: To investigate reactivated Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection as a cause for chronic hepatitis. Patients with occasionally established elevated serum aminotransferases were studied. HIV, HBV and HCV-infections were excluded as well as any other immunosuppressive factors, metabolic or toxic disorders. EBV viral capsid antigen (VCA) IgG and IgM, EA-R and EA-D IgG and Epstein-Barr nuclear antigen (EBNA) were measured using IFA kits. Immunophenotyping of whole blood was performed by multicolor flow cytometry. CD8(+) T cell responses to EBV and PHA were determined according to the intracellular expression of IFN-gamma. The mean alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and gamma glutamyl transpeptidase (GGTP) values exceeded twice the upper normal limit, AST/ALT ratio < 1. Serology tests showed reactivated EBV infection in all patients. Absolute number and percentages of T, B and NK cells were within the reference ranges. Fine subset analysis, in comparison to EBV(+) healthy carriers, revealed a significant decrease of naive T cells (P < 0.001), accompanied by increased percentage of CD45RA(-) (P < 0.0001), and terminally differentiated CD28(-)CD27(-)CD8(+) T cells (P < 0.01). Moderately elevated numbers of CD38 molecules on CD8(+) T cells (P < 0.05) proposed a low viral burden. A significantly increased percentage of CD8(+) T cells expressing IFN-gamma in response to EBV and PHA stimulation was registered in patients, as compared to controls (P < 0.05). Liver biopsy specimens from 5 patients revealed nonspecific features of low-grade hepatitis. Chronic hepatitis might be a manifestation of chronic EBV infection in the lack of detectable immune deficiency; the expansion of CD28(-)CD27(-) and increase of functional EBV-specific CD8(+) T cells being the only surrogate markers of viral activity.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2006 · World Journal of Gastroenterology
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