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Identification of EBV infection in adults with egg specific food allergy

Yang Pan12, Zhiyang Nie3, Yuan Zhang12, Kuo Zhang1, Jinming Li1* and Lunan Wang1*

Author Affiliations

1 National Center for Clinical Laboratories, Beijing Hospital of the Ministry of Health, NO.1 Dahua Road, Beijing, People’s Republic of China

2 Graduate School, Peking Union Medical College, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, Beijing, People’s Republic of China

3 Department of Transfusion, Beijing Hospital of the Ministry of Health, Beijing, People’s Republic of China

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Virology Journal 2013, 10:9  doi:10.1186/1743-422X-10-9

Published: 4 January 2013



Food allergy has been reported increasingly around the world during the past several decades. Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a common herpesvirus with high infection rate, is now suspected to be a risk or protective factor in food allergy. The aim of the study was to investigate the possible role of EBV infection in IgE-mediated food allergy.


34 patients with an egg allergy and 34 healthy controls participated in this study. Egg allergy was confirmed by open-food challenge. Serum anti-viral capsid antigen (VCA), anti-Epstein-Barr nuclear antigen 1 (EBNA-1) IgG and egg specific (yolk and white)-IgE levels were evaluated by enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). At the same time, EBV DNA as well as viral miRNAs in these samples was quantified by real-time PCR.


The results showed that serum anti EBNA-1 IgG and two viral miRNAs (miR-BART1-5p and miR-BART7) were highly expressed in patients with egg allergy compared with healthy controls (p < 0.05, < 0.001 and < 0.01, respectively). Moreover, the expressions of anti EBNA-1 specific IgG, miR-BART1-5p and miR-BART7 positively correlated with the level of egg-specific IgE (p < 0.05, < 0.01 and < 0.01, respectively). The differences in anti VCA IgG concentration and EBV DNA copy number between the allergy patients and control individuals were not statistically significant.


The high expression of EBV-specific antibody and miRNAs indicated that EBV infection might play a promoting role in IgE-mediated egg food allergy, and viral miRNAs-related immunomodulatory pathway was likely involved in this allergy process.

Epstein-Barr virus; Food allergy; Microrna; Specific IgE