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Abstract

A prospective epidemiological study was carried out in the West Nile District of Uganda from 1972 to 1979 in order to investigate the aetiological role of the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) in Burkitt's lymphoma (BL). By 1976, fourteen BL cases had been detected among the 42,000 children originally bled in the study area. Testing of sera from BL candidates and neighbourhood controls showed that children who develop BL later have EBV/VCA titres several dilutions higher than their age- and sex-matched neighbours. This appearance of a strong EBV activity long before BL development was taken as evidence of a causal role of EBV in BL In order to add to the unique material of pre-bled BL cases, BL detection was continued up to March 1979 when field work became impossible in Uganda. Two additional pre-bled BL cases were found during this extension of the study. The serological and virological evaluation of these additional cases showed that the EBV/VCA titres, but not the EA and EBNA titres, were about two dilutions higher in the BL candidates than in the controls. Hybridization assays showed that both lymphomas contained EBV/DNA in the tumour cells. These additional results thus confirm the findings in the first 14 cases and strengthen the epidemiological evidence for a causal role of the EBV in endemic BL.