J Oral Pathol Med (2010) 39: 599–604
Using PCR/DNA sequencing, we investigated the prevalence of human papillomavirus (HPV), herpes simplex virus (HSV) and Epstein–Barr virus (EBV) DNA in brush biopsies obtained from 150 users of Sudanese snuff (toombak) and 25 non-users of toombak in formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissue samples obtained from 31 patients with oral dysplasias (25 toombak users and 6 non-users), and from 217 patients with oral cancers (145 toombak users and 72 non-users). In the brush tissue samples from toombak users, HPV was detected in 60 (40%), HSV in 44 (29%) and EBV in 97 (65%) of the samples. The corresponding figures for the 25 samples from non-users were 17 (68%) positive for HPV, 6 (24%) positive for HSV and 21 (84%) for EBV. The formalin-fixed samples with oral dysplasias were all negative for HPV. In the 145 oral cancer samples from toombak users, HPV was detected in 39 (27%), HSV in 15 (10%) and EBV in 53 (37%) of the samples. The corresponding figures for the samples from non-users were 15 (21%) positive for HPV, 5 (7%) for HSV and 16 (22%) for EBV. These findings illustrate that prevalence of HSV, HPV and EBV infections are common and may influence oral health and cancer development. It is not obvious that cancer risk is increased in infected toombak users. These observations warrant further studies involving toombak-associated oral lesions, to uncover the possible mechanisms of these viral infections in the development of oral cancer, and the influence of toombak on these viruses.