Prevalence of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) in Oral Exfoliated Cells: A Pilot Prospective Study of Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma

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Sulav Acharya
Pensiri Phusingha
Patravoot Vatanasapt
Supannee Promthet
Tipaya Eklaksananan
Chamsai Pientong


Background and Objectives: Oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) is a subtype of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) that accounts for more than 90% of HNSCC. Smoking, chewing betel quid and alcohol consumption has been reported as major risk factors for OSCC. Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), an oncogenic DNA virus is responsible for causing different types of cancer such as Burkitt’s lymphoma, gastric carcinoma and nasopharyngeal carcinoma. To explore the association of EBV with OSCC, this study investigated the prevalence of EBV infection in oral exfoliated cells of case-control study of OSCC.

Methods: Oral exfoliated cells collected from OSCC cases and controls with normal healthy mucosa were extracted for DNA and qualified by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) using housekeeping gene primers. The qualified DNA was detected for EBV-DNA using PCR. The PCR product from EBV positive cases were confirmed by dot blot hybridization using EBV specific probe and nested PCR using specific primers.

Results: Tongue was the most common site of these OSCC cases. The prevalence of EBV in OSCC cases (44%) was statistically significant different from control (19%). According to anatomical site of lesion among OSCC cases, prevalence of EBV was highest in gum cancer cases (85.7%).

Conclusions: This result demonstrates the association of EBV with OSCC and suggests that EBV may be an etiological risk factor for OSCC. The mechanism behind the etiologic role of EBV in OSCC must be further studied.

Key words: Epstein-Barr virus, Oral squamous cell carcinoma


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