The present study was performed to clarify the reported inconsistencies regarding the frequency of the association of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and Hodgkin's disease (HD). Biopsies from 102 patients with HD were screened for the presence of EBV-encoded small nuclear RNA (EBER) and latent membrane protein (LMP) by using a non-isotopic in situ hybridization (ISH) and immunohistology (IH), respectively. The results were additionally compared with those obtained by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for EBV-DNA detection. EBV was detected by EBER-ISH in 67% of the HD cases and in 25% of the control group cases consisting of normal lymph nodes. The results of PCR performed on cases with amplifiable DNA were overall congruent with those obtained by EBER-ISH. With respect to the cellular localization of EBV. four categories of HD could be established: (a) cases with EBV-infected tumour cells (42/102). (b) cases with additional infection of bystander cells (4/102): (c) cases with EBV infection restricted to non-malignant bystander cells (23/102); and (d) cases with neither EBV-infected tumour cells nor bystander cells (33/102). LMP expression was detectable only in the neoplastic cell population of those cases with EBER-positive tumour cells, suggesting a frequent involvement of EBV in the pathogenesis of HD.