Stanford University

Epstein-Barr Virus Fact Sheet

Double-stranded linear DNA, 120-150 nm diameter, enveloped, icosahedral; types A and B; Herpesviridae (Gammaherpesvirinae). Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a ubiquitous Blymphotropic herpesvirus, has been found in the tumor cells of a heterogeneous group of malignancies (Burkitt’s lymphoma, lymphomas associated with immunosuppression, other nonHodgkin’s lymphomas, Hodgkin’s disease, nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC), gastric adenocarcinoma, lymphoepithelioma-like carcinomas, and immunodeficiency-related leiomyosarcoma). EBV is a transforming virus and can immortalize B-cells and cause lymphoma in various animal models.

What are the hazards?

Infectious mononucleosis – acute viral syndrome with fever, sore throat, splenomegaly and lymphadenopathy; one to several weeks, rarely fatal/ Burkitt’s lymphoma – monoclonal tumor of B cells, usually involving children, jaw involvement is common; AIDS patients( 25% -30% are EBV related) / Nasopharyngeal carcinoma – malignant tumor of epithelial cells of the nasopharynx involving adults between 20 and 40 years.


EBV infects 80 – 90% of all adults worldwide; mononucleosis is common in early childhood worldwide, typical disease occurs in developed countries mainly in young adults; Burkitt’s tumor is found worldwide but hyperendemic in highly malarial areas such as tropical Africa; carcinoma is worldwide but highest in Southeast Asia and China.


Mononucleosis – person-to-person by oropharyngeal route via saliva, possible spread via blood transfusion (not important route); Burkitt’s lymphoma – primary infection occurs early in life or involves immunosuppression and reactivation of EBV later, malaria an important co-factor; NPC is associated with EBV infection in early life and reactivation later with epithelial invasion.

Laboratory hazards

Ingestion, accidental parenteral injection, droplet exposure of the mucous membranes, inhalation of concentrated aerosolized materials. Note that cell lines are often immortalized by transformation with EBV.

Laboratory hazards ppe
Exposure of mucus membrane (eyes, nose, mouth) Use of safety goggles or full face shields. Use of appropriate face mask
Injection Use of safety needles; NEVER re-cap needle or remove needle from syringe
Aerosol inhalation Use of appropriate respiratory protection
Direct contact with skin Gloves, lab coat, closed shoes

The above PPE are often required IN ADDITION to working in a certified Biosafety Cabinet.

Susceptibility to disinfectants: Susceptible to disinfectants – 1% sodium hypochlorite, 70% ethanol, glutaraldehyde, formaldehyde

Use in Lab: BSL-2

Use with Animals: ABSL-2 housing.


No specific treatment.

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