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The Influence of Epstein-Barr Virus Reactivation in Patients with Graves’ Disease

In Graves' disease, the IgG class autoantibody against thyrotropin receptor (TRAb) is produced excessively and induces hyperthyroidism. Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is one of the human herpesviruses that persists for life, mainly in B lymphocytes, and is occasionally reactivated. Therefore, EBV may affect the antibody production of B lymphocytes that would normally produce TRAb. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the association of EBV reactivation with the etiology of Graves' disease. Serum levels of EBV antibodies and IgE were determined by ELISA. TRAb levels were determined by radioreceptor assay. We performed in-situ hybridization (ISH) of EBV-encoded small RNA (EBER)1 on the thyroid tissue of one of our patients. In Graves' disease patients with TRAb levels ≥10%, EA antibody levels, which indicate EBV reactivation, were moderately but significantly correlated with the levels of TRAb, and weakly but significantly correlated with IgE. EBER1-ISH revealed that one of our patients had EBV-infected lymphocytes infiltrating the thyroid gland. EBV reactivation may stimulate antibody-producing B lymphocytes predisposed to make TRAb, and this may contribute to or exacerbate the disease.