New Study Shows Active Epstein-Barr Virus Increases Chance for Lupus in At-Risk People

August 13, 2019

New research results showed that active Epstein-Barr virus increases the risk for lupus among relatives of people who already have lupus. Epstein-Barr virus is one of the most common human viruses. After the first infection, the virus becomes inactive in your body and can reactivate at any time. Scientists have known that the virus is associated with lupus.

This new study was conducted by Lupus Therapeutics Board member Dr. Daniel Wallace along with many leaders in lupus care and research. Its objective was to understand how reactivation of the virus may contribute to the development of lupus in people already at risk because they are related to those already diagnosed.

Researchers re-contacted over 400 relatives of people with lupus. At the original visit and this one about six years later, the relatives were asked to provide updated demographic, environmental, clinical information and blood samples.  The levels of antibodies against the Epstein-Barr virus were measured.

Results showed that the level of antibodies to the virus was higher among those relatives who had developed lupus since their initial visit.  Researchers concluded that measuring reactivation of the Epstein-Barr virus “may provide additional biomarkers to identify individuals at higher risk of transitioning to clinical lupus.”

The paper was published in Annals of Rheumatic Disease.