Epstein—Barr virus (EBV) infection of the common marmoset causes long-term infection, with production of antibodies to virus-induced antigens, without clinical illness. Attempts to show the presence of EBV DNA in saliva of infected animals by PCR were initially unsuccessful, although slot-blot hybridization analysis demonstrated that viral DNA was present. Further investigations showed that most samples of pilocarpine-induced saliva, and 33% of the samples of whole mouth fluids (WMF) tested, were inhibitory to PCR. Similar results were found using human WMF. A method of assessing samples of marmoset WMF for the presence of EBV, by PCR using an EBV HI W probe, and removing inhibition with Chelex 100, is described. A total of 202 samples from 21 EBV infected, and seven non-infected animals was tested. Five seropositive animals shed virus on every occasion, and 15 intermittently. Two marmosets, infected as neonates, showed progressively increasing humoral responses to viral antigens, and shed virus on every occasion tested over 3 years. When mated with uninfected animals, the latter seroconverted 4 and 6 weeks later, respectively, and later shed virus into their WMF. The naturally infected animals were paired with naïve marmosets, and were able to pass on infection. These results establish that long-term, permissive EBV infection occurs in the common marmoset, and demonstrate again the similarities in the response to EBV between marmoset and man.


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