More than 80% of non-Hodgkin lymphomas (NHLs) occurring in transplant recipients on immunosuppressive therapy are associated with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection. EBV viral load (EBV-VL) is predictive of NHL occurrence in this setting. The aim of this work was to determine EBV-VL in patients with Crohn's disease (CD), both according to disease activity and use of immunosuppressive therapy, including infliximab.
Between December 1999 and July 2001, EBV-VL was determined 212 times by quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay in 138 patients with CD and in 24 EBV-seropositive controls free of CD.
EBV-VL did not differ significantly between the controls and the patients with CD and was not influenced by CD activity or by immunosuppressive therapy, including recent infliximab infusion. High EBV-VL values were observed in two patients with severe uncontrolled CD, but returned to normal once the flare-up had been controlled (by immunosuppressive drugs in one case and by surgery in the other case).
EBV viral load is on the whole similar in patients with Crohn's disease and in EBV-seropositive controls. Infliximab infusion does not seem to increase significantly EBV-VL in the short term. However, some patients with Crohn's disease have transient, very high EBV-VL values that are compatible with an increased risk of NHL in the transplant setting. The long-term clinical outcome of these patients must be determined.