DNA from mononuclear blood and tumor cells from 33 patients undergoing bone marrow transplantation for leukemia was examined for the presence of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) genomes by blot hybridization. Four groups of patients were studied soon after engraftment, during long-term remission, after relapse of the original leukemia, and after development of secondary B cell neoplasms. Only the cells of patients with secondary neoplasms demonstrated EBV genomes, where all five adequately studied samples were positive. Samples from all other patient categories were negative for EBV genomes. We conclude that EBV genomes do not frequently persist in normal engrafted lymphocytes or in mononuclear cells of patients suffering recurrent leukemia. These results are consistent with EBV playing a role in the genesis of secondary B cell neoplasms following bone marrow transplantation.

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