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Alert Number 171

EBV: The Enemy Within

Chances are good you have been exposed Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) as a kid or young adult. About 90% of people carry remnants of this infection for the rest of their lives. In most cases the infection goes unnoticed. In a small percentage of people, the viral infection causes infectious mononucleosis (“mono” or “IM”). The remnants of the virus is usually kept under check by T-cells but this status quo can change dramatically and with disastrous consequences for you as the host if your T-cells responsible for controlling the EBV are not working efficiently. As CLL patients we have less than perfect T-cell function. After T-cell damaging therapy, some CLL patients are not that much better off than HIV patients in the EBV-fighting ability of their T-cells.

Recently EBV has been linked to the morphing of CLL to the much more dangerous Richter’s transformation, a type of aggressive lymphoma where median survival is measured in months and weeks, not years. It is not a level playing field: some CLL patients who have been exposed to EBV are more at risk than others.

Please read EBV: The Enemy Within to find out about your risk status. It can have a deep impact on your therapy choices and there may be things you can do right now that may give you some protection from the disastrous consequences of EBV reactivation that may in turn lead to more aggressive cancers.

Be well,


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