Correlation between Epstein-Barr Virus Infection and Disease Activity of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: a Cross-Sectional Study

Document Type : Research Articles


1 Autoimmune Diseases Research Center, Kashan University of Medical Sciences, Kashan, Iran.

2 Anatomical Sciences Research Center, Kashan University of Medical Sciences, Kashan, Iran.


Background: Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease for whose pathogenesis viral infections are important. The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is the main infectious etiological agent. This study aimed to quantitative evaluation of EBV in SLE patients. Materials and Methods: In this cross-sectional study, 40 patients with SLE diagnosed based on American College of Rheumatology criteria were selected using purposive sampling. All were included in the study after obtaining informed consent for participation. Whole blood samples were taken and buffy coat preparations were isolated to determine viral load using the real-time polymerase chain reaction method and assessment with the SLE disease activity index (SLE-DAI). Results: From a total of 40 patients, 37 cases (92.5%) were women. The EBV test was positive in 67.5% and mean viral load was 5396 ± 1891.9 copy/ml. Twenty of forty patients had active and 50% inactive disease, mean EBV viral loads being 6798 and 28.25 copy/ml, respectively (P-value = 0.003). In terms of the severity of disease activity, 17.5 % of female patients had mild to moderate activity, whilst 32.5% of them had severe activity, with respective viral loads of 5,803.3 and 29.73 copy/ml (P-value = 0.003). Conclusion: The Epstein-Barr viral load in SLE patients with active disease was found to be markedly higher than in inactive cases. Thus, EBV may have an important role in the pathogenesis and activity of SLE.


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