The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) has been increasingly detected in Hodgkin's disease (HD), but its role in pathogenesis remains uncertain. We analyzed 20 specimens of HD known to contain EBV DNA by a sensitive reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). The cases were assessed for the presence of RNA transcripts of the BNLF1 gene (coding for the viral latent membrane protein [LMP]) and the late replicative gene BLLF1 (coding for the principle envelope glycoprotein [gp220/350]). LMP RNA transcripts were found in 9 of 20 (45%) cases, mostly those containing many copies of viral DNA and of mixed cellularity (MC) histological subtype. Only one LMP RNA-positive case was also positive for RNA transcripts of the active replication gene BLLF1. Our results show that viral burden in HD is not primarily related to active viral replication, but is associated with LMP gene expression.

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