One hundred twenty-five cases of Hodgkin's disease from the United States (79), Mexico City (31), and Costa Rica (15) were analyzed for the presence of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) by in situ hybridization to EBER1 transcripts. EBV was more frequently detected in the Reed- Sternberg (RS) cells of mixed cellularity Hodgkin's disease (37 of 48 [77%]) compared with the nodular sclerosis subtype (19 of 71 [27%], P < .001). The presence of EBV was also associated with Hispanic ethnicity (P < .001). In a multivariate analysis, patient age, gender, and geographic location were less predictive of EBV positivity than were mixed cellularity histology (odds ratio = 8.3) and Hispanic ethnicity (odds ratio = 4.3). Southern blot analysis of EBV terminal repeat fragments using the Xho1a probe showed that the viral DNA was monoclonal in 17 of 17 cases having EBER1-positive RS cells. By comparison, EBV DNA was not detected by Southern analysis in 20 cases lacking EBER1 in RS cells, even when occasional background lymphocytes expressed EBER1. Because clonal viral DNA was so readily detected in EBER1-positive cases, the EBV genome is probably amplified at least 50- fold in the infected RS cells. Monoclonality of EBV DNA implies that the RS cells were infected before malignant transformation.

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