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Clinical Virology Programs

Your Donation Helps Prevent Mono, MS, and some Cancers

December 23rd, 2014

The University of Minnesota Foundation has created a fund to support completion of a 40-year-old research effort to prevent infectious mononucleosis (Mono).  Mono is a significant medical disease and a history of Mono, which is caused by Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), greatly increases the risk of multiple sclerosis. A vaccine that reduces the risk of Mono also could reduce the risk of MS. And the benefits could be even greater. An EBV vaccine could also be valuable in preventing or reducing the incidence of certain cancers, including Hodgkin lymphoma, endemic Burkitt lymphoma, nasopharyngeal carcinoma, and B-cell cancer after transplantation. Given the potential benefits of an effective EBV vaccine for so many diseases, it is critical that research continues to prove its effectiveness and bring it to market.

Please consider a donation, which can be made directly to the University of Minnesota Foundation through the link below.

From the Dean of the University of Minnesota Medical School:

“We now have the opportunity to develop and evaluate a vaccine to prevent EBV infection, which has the potential to save millions of lives. I consider this research to be a top priority in the Academic Health Center.”

—Brooks Jackson, M.D., M.B.A. Dean of the Medical School

Vice President for Health Sciences

Prevention of Posttransplant Viral Infections

December 21st, 2014

Clinical Virology Programs just had a landmark paper accepted by Transplantation. The study showed the safety and feasibility of giving valganciclovir to kidney donors pretransplant to reduce the burden of cytomegalovirus (CMV) and/or Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) transmitted to the recipient via the donor organ.  In this small placebo-controlled trial of 17 donor-recipient pairs, there were two serious viral infections–both in recipients whose donors received the placebo.  Priya Vergehese, MD, MPH was the lead author of the study.  Her conclusion is that the next step is to perform a larger multicenter trial with sufficient power to evaluate efficacy.

A Vaccine to Prevent Mono?

October 25th, 2014

Is there a vaccine I could take to avoid Mono?  Not yet, but Clinical Virology Programs is working hard to make such a vaccine available.  The vaccine we’re researching is designed to prevent Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection because EBV is the major cause of Mono.  Please stay in touch.  Progress on this program will be posted often.  Dr. Balfour will be discussing “Development of an EBV Vaccine” at the Department of Surgery Transplant Conference Wednesday October 29th at 4 PM in Room 11-157 PWB.

Three Herpesviruses Go Together

July 14th, 2014

Clinical Virology Programs has just published a study showing “that presence of antibodies for EBV, CMV, or HSV-1 increased the odds of having antibody against one of the other viruses.”  EBV, which stands for Epstein-Barr virus, causes Mono but also is responsible for some cancers and autoimmune diseases.  Cytomegalovirus (CMV) can cause birth defects and may complicate organ transplantation.  Herpes simplex type 1 (HSV-1) causes cold sores but is also implicated in eye disease and newborn infections.  The subjects studied were  6 to 19 year-old participants in the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, 2003-2004 cycle.  One consequence of these findings is that “a uniform policy would be to vaccinate all children with herpesvirus vaccines when fairly young.”  Vaccines are currently in development for all three of these human herpesviruses. The lead author of the study, Amanda Delaney, is now a medical student at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison, WI.

Citation: Delaney AS, Thomas W, Balfour HH Jr. Co-Prevalence of Epstein-Barr virus, cytomegalovirus, and herpes simplex virus type-1 antibodies among United States children and factors associated with their acquisition. J Ped Infect Dis 2014. DOI 10.1093/jpids/piu076

When Epstein-Barr virus (the mono virus) is caught differs by race/ethnicity

May 21st, 2014

Clinical Virology Programs in collaboration with researchers at HealthPartners just published a research report showing a racial/ethnic disparity in the age at which Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is first caught.  Children ages 18 months to 19.9 years in the greater Twin Cities metropolitan area were studied. Overall, non-Hispanic white children had a prevalence of EBV antibody of 26% versus 74% for non-Hispanic black children.  The antibody prevalence in other groups was: Asian children, 62%; multiracial children, 54%; and Hispanic children, 50%.  The report concluded, “Racial/ethnic differences in EBV antibody prevalence and concordance of antibody status among siblings prompt us to speculate that both genetics and family environment contribute to acquisition of EBV infection.  The ideal age to give a prophylactic vaccine may differ according race/ethnicity. How pre-adolescent children acquire EBV is an important area for future research.  Identifying and ameliorating those factors responsible for early infection may be an important public health step in disease prevention.   Finally, our data indicate that early age of primary EBV infection among racial/ethnic groups other than non-Hispanic whites is a health disparity that should be addressed.”

Reference: Condon LM, Cederberg LE, Rabinovitch MD, Liebo R, Go JC, Delaney, AS, Schmeling DO, Thomas W, Balfour HH Jr. Age-Specific prevalence of Epstein-Barr virus infection among Minnesota children: effects of race/ethnicity and family environment. Clin Infect Dis 2014. DOI 10.1093/cid/ciu342

Epstein-Barr Virus Infection in Young Children

October 13th, 2013

How do young children acquire the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) also known as the Mono virus?  We don’t know.  That’s why we’re doing a study in a Child Development Center as part of an Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program grant awarded to Emma Filtz, a member of our research team.  The first step will be to learn if we can recover EBV from the throat swabs or oral washings of about 30 toddlers.  If we are successful, we will expand the study to include many more subjects in several centers to explore family and environmental factors that may be associated with transmission of EBV.

Multiple Sclerosis and Mono Virus Study

August 24th, 2013

Clinical Virology Programs in collaboration with the Department of Neurology is investigating why Epstein-Barr virus (the Mono virus) is a major environmental risk factor for acquisition of multiple sclerosis (MS).  Our hypothesis is that MS patients have abnormal immune defenses against Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which either permit the virus to attack the central nervous system or encourage the body to attack itself.  A pilot study looking at early relapsing-remitting MS subjects has just been approved by University of Minnesota Research Subjects Protection Program and is opening to enrollment.

The Connection between Multiple Sclerosis and Epstein-Barr Virus

July 3rd, 2013

Clinical Virology Programs in concert with the Department of Neurology will be conducting a study whose hypothesis is that abnormal immune responses to Epstein-Barr virus infection increase susceptibility to and severity of MS.  Stay tuned for detailed information on this research.  A cross-sectional study is planned to launch as early as August 1, 2013.

Class of 2016 Mono Study Ends Clinic Visits

June 30th, 2013

The prospective study of primary EBV infection in freshmen students ended its clinic visit phase on June 27, 2013.  Overall, 87 students made 1,338 visits to the Clinical Virology Research Clinic between September 2012 and June 2013.  There were 16 cases of primary EBV infection; 14 were mono, 1 subject was symptomatic but didn’t meet the criteria for a clinical mono diagnosis, and 1 student was completely asymptomatic.  A great big thanks to those who participated and made it possible to achieve our goal: collection of samples during the incubation period of mono.  These samples should prove very valuable as we attempt to define early immune responses that govern severity of illness.

Two CVP Students Receive Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program Grants

May 14th, 2013

Congratulations to Emma Filtz and Jenn Grimm who were recently awarded UROP grants.  Emma will be studying the shedding of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) in the daycare setting.  Jenn will be using line immunoblot technology to investigate evolution of EBV-specific antibodies during the incubation period of primary EBV infection.  We are very proud of our undergraduate research students!