Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection in animal model systems has been studied previously in marmosets and tamarins using serology and PCR of saliva. Here we directly demonstrated long-term persistence of EBV in the peripheral blood of marmosets by assaying EBER RNA expression. A new reverse transcription-PCR assay, able to distinguish a naturally occurring strain polymorphism in EBER 2 that may be useful as a strain marker for monitoring persistence and interactions between multiple strains in the same animal or person, has been developed. In situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry have also been used to search for EBV-infected cells in the animals. The carrier state in the common marmoset is similar to that of humans in that it is asymptomatic, long-lived and displays a very low level of circulating virus-infected cells. It differs from the human in lacking the characteristic antibody response to EBNA 1.


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