Recent studies have suggested that Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) may play a role in the aetiology of Hodgkin's disease. To determine the role of EBV in childhood Hodgkin's disease in different geographical areas, immunohistochemical staining and in situ hybridisation were used to analyse latent membrane protein 1 (LMP 1) and small nuclear non-transcribed RNAs (EBER-1) respectively. Testing for EBV within the Reed-Sternberg and Hodgkin's cells was carried out in childhood Hodgkin's disease from 10 different countries. The proportion of LMP 1 positive cases varied significantly, being 50% of cases from the United Kingdom (38/75), South Africa (9/18), Egypt (7/14), and Jordan (8/16), 60% from the United Arab Emirates (6/10), 70% from Australia (11/16), 81% from Costa Rica (34/42), 88% from Iran (7/8), 90% from Greece (20/22), and 100% of the 56 cases from Kenya. A sensitive polymerase chain reaction based EBV strain typing technique was established using archival tissues. EBV strain type 1 was shown to be predominant in childhood Hodgkin's disease from the United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia, and Greece. Type 2 was predominant in Egypt. EBV strain types 1 and 2 were both detected in some cases of childhood Hodgkin's disease in the United Kingdom, Costa Rica, and Kenya. The high incidence of EBV and the presence especially in developing countries of dual infection with both strain types 1 and 2 may reflect socioeconomic conditions leading to malnutrition induced immunological impairment. The possibility of HIV infection also needs to be explored.
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