Library Dissertation Showcase

Seroprevalence of Epstein-Barr virus in a cohort of university students, and analysis of associated risk factors. Laboratory-based project

  • Year of Publication:
  • 2020

Introduction: Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) is a member of the Herpesviridae family, which, once infected, remains latent in memory B-lymphocytes for the host’s lifetime. Worldwide, 80-90% of adults are EBV seropositive. Saliva is the main route of transmission, and there are two peaks of infectivity – during infancy, and during adolescence. The latter are at an increased risk of suffering infectious mononucleosis. This study aims to identify potential risk factors for EBV infection.

Methods: 131 University of Lincoln students completed a questionnaire identifying potential risk factors, including indicators for socioeconomic status (SES), amount of amorous exploration and proximity to young children. A range of other data were also collected. Their sera were then analysed using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay to determine EBV serostatus.

Results: 74.8% of students were EBV seropositive. There were no significant relationships identified from the socioeconomic, amorosity or child-related questions, although there were some directional trends. Significant correlations were found between EBV seropositivity and better mental health, low iron, and high cholesterol.

Discussion: Increased EBV seroprevalence in lower SES is well-documented, so the lack of significant results is thought to be related to this study’s limitations. There are less definite correlations with amorous encounters and proximity to children within the literature. Participants who were severely depressed may be prone to isolating themselves, and are consequently less likely to be EBV seropositive, although some studies provide evidence to the contrary. Low iron levels could be caused by EBV sequestering host iron for fundamental viral processes. High cholesterol may be caused by increased cholesterol biosynthesis in EBV infection.

Conclusion: No risk factors for EBV infection were identified in this study, although EBV may be associated with certain markers of non-communicable diseases. Future studies should increase the sample size, alter the study design and include more specific questions to improve the accuracy.

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