The Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) is consistently found in tumor cells of Burkitt's lymphoma (BL) endemic in central Africa and malaria is considered a pathogenic cofactor. In contrast, fewer than 20% of BL cases occurring in Western countries are EBV-associated. We have investigated 54 BL cases from Bahia, a tropical region of Northeast Brazil, for expression of EBV gene products by in situ hybridization and immunohistology and performed typing of the EBV by polymerase chain reaction. Ten pediatric BL cases from Germany served as controls. New cases of malaria were not observed in the period and area of our study. Small nuclear EBV encoded transcripts, EBER, were found in tumor cells of 47 of 54 Brazilian cases (87%) but in only 2 of 10 German cases (20%). Type I latency of the EBV infection with absence of EBV-encoded proteins LMP1 and EBNA2 was found in 45 of 47 of the EBER-positive Brazilian cases. In two cases, occasional LMP1-containing tumor cells were found in the neighborhood of small Schistosoma mansoni granulomas and scars. BHLF1 transcripts associated with lytic EBV infection could be detected in few cells in 3 of the 40 EBER-positive Brazilian cases investigated. EBV type A was found in the majority of Brazilian BL cases (20 of 30 A-type, 7 of 30 B-type, and 3 of 30 not amplifiable). Our results indicate that the association of Bahian BL with EBV, but not the regional prevalence of malaria, is similar to endemic African BL. In two cases, type II latency was found in association with schistosomiasis, suggesting a role of this parasitosis in the induction of an EBV expression pattern that is unusual for BL. Because chronic schistosomiasis is associated with elevated Th2 cytokine expression resulting in reduced cell-mediated cytotoxicity, it seems possible that altered local immunity is responsible for this peculiar phenotype.

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