Plasma Viral MicroRNA Profiles Reveal Potential Biomarkers for Chronic Active Epstein–Barr Virus Infection

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Background. Chronic active Epstein–Barr virus (CAEBV) infection has high mortality and morbidity, and biomarkers for disease severity and prognosis are required. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small noncoding RNAs, and EBV encodes multiple miRNAs. Because plasma contains sufficiently stable miRNAs, circulating EBV–associated miRNA profiles were investigated as novel biomarkers in CAEBV infection.

Methods. Plasma miRNA expression was assessed for 12 miRNAs encoded within 2 EBV open reading frames (BART and BHRF). Expression levels were investigated in 19 patients with CAEBV infection, 14 patients with infectious mononucleosis, and 11 healthy controls. Relative expression levels of plasma miRNAs were determined by TaqMan probe-based quantitative assay.

Results. Plasma miR-BART1-5p, 2-5p, 5, and 22 levels in patients with CAEBV infection were significantly greater than those in patients with infectious mononucleosis and in controls. Plasma miR-BART2-5p, 4, 7, 13, 15, and 22 levels were significantly elevated in patients with CAEBV infection with systemic symptoms, compared with levels in patients with no systemic symptoms. The levels of miR-BART2-5p, 13, and 15 showed clinical cutoff values associated with specific clinical conditions, in contrast to plasma EBV loads.

Conclusions. Levels of specific plasma EBV miRNAs were elevated differentially in patients with CAEBV infection. Several EBV miRNAs, particularly miR-BART2-5p, 13, and 15, are potentially biomarkers of disease severity or prognosis.

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