Microscopic intracellular detection of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) messenger RNA in Reed-Sternberg cells of Hodgkin's disease (HD) was possible by in situ hybridization, in tissue sections prepared by a method termed modified acetone methyl benzoate xylene (ModAMeX). The ModAMeX method was initially developed for simultaneous optimal preservation of leucocyte differentiation antigens and morphology. Two biotinylated DNA probes, corresponding to the same BamHI-W (internal repeat) of the EBV genome were used. EBV mRNA was detected in neoplastic cells in 16 of 54 (30%) lymph node biopsy specimens from usual subtypes of HD (lymphocyte predominance, 0/5; nodular sclerosis, 4/22; mixed cellularity, 12/26; unclassified, 0/1). EBV mRNA was also detected in the lymph node biopsy of 1 additional human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-related case of HD (mixed cellularity) and in 2 of 4 cases of B-cell lymphomas occurring in patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). In other non-Hodgkin's lymphomas, EBV mRNA was detected in only 1 of 41 cases. Cases of HD positive for EBV mRNA were immunostained by CD30 and CD15 antibodies. The hybridization signals were exclusively restricted to Reed-Sternberg cells and variants. When analyzed retrospectively, no statistically significant correlation emerged between hybridization findings, EBV serology, or disease outcome over the 3 years of the availability of ModAMeX technique. The findings support the contention of a direct role of EBV in the pathogenesis of HD, at least in some cases.

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