OBJECTIVES: We investigated the antibody levels against early antigens of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), cytomegalovirus (CMV), and human herpesvirus 6 (HHV6) in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients and healthy controls, and further correlated these antibodies to haematology/biochemistry, serology, and disease activity measures.
METHOD: Immunoglobulin (Ig)M, IgG, and IgA levels against the DNA polymerase processivity factors of EBV, CMV, and HHV6, termed early antigen diffuse (EA/D), pp52, and p41, respectively, were determined in plasma samples from 77 SLE patients and 29 healthy controls by using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs).
RESULTS: IgM, IgG, and IgA levels against EBV EA/D, and IgG and IgA levels against CMV pp52, were significantly higher in SLE patients compared with healthy controls. Furthermore, EBV EA/D- and CMV pp52-directed IgG levels were inversely and positively associated, respectively, with lymphocyte counts in SLE patients. None of the findings seemed to be associated with use of immunosuppressive medication.
CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest strong, but opposite, associations of lytic EBV and CMV infections with SLE. The amplified humoral responses to EBV EA/D and CMV pp52 in our SLE patient cohort probably reflect aberrant control of EBV and CMV reactivation. However, reactivation of EBV appeared to correlate with lymphopenic manifestations in SLE patients whereas CMV reactivation seemed to correlate with increments in lymphocyte levels.