NYMC Faculty Publications

Incidence of Epstein-Barr Virus Reactivation Is Elevated in COVID-19 Patients

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Virus Research

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Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology


COVID-19, an infectious respiratory illness, is caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Individuals with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk of developing serious illnesses such as long COVID. Recent studies have observed Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) reactivation in patients with severe illness or long COVID, which may contribute to associated symptoms. We determined the frequency of EBV reactivation in COVID-19 positive patients compared to COVID-19 negative patients. 106 blood plasma samples were collected from COVID-19 positive and negative patients and EBV reactivation was determined by detection of EBV DNA and antibodies against EBV lytic genes in individuals with previous EBV infection. 27.1% (13/48) of EBV reactivations, based on qPCR detection of EBV genomes, are from the COVID positive group while only 12.5% (6/48) of reactivations belonged to the negative group. 20/52 (42.30%) of the COVID PCR negative group had detectable antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 nucleoprotein (Np); indicative of past infection. A significantly higher SARS-CoV-2 Np protein level was found in the COVID-19 positive group. In conclusion, COVID-19 patients experienced increased reactivation of EBV in comparison to COVID negative patients.