Mountain gorilla lymphocryptovirus has Epstein-Barr virus-like epidemiology and pathology in infants

Tierra Smiley Evans, Linda J. Lowenstine, Kirsten V. Gilardi, Peter A. Barry, Benard J. Ssebide, Jean Felix Kinani, Fred Nizeyimana, Jean Bosco Noheri, Michael R. Cranfield, Antoine Mudakikwa, Tracey Goldstein, Jonna A.K. Mazet, Christine Kreuder Johnson

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7 Scopus citations


Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infects greater than 90% of humans, is recognized as a significant comorbidity with HIV/AIDS, and is an etiologic agent for some human cancers. The critically endangered mountain gorilla population was suspected of infection with an EBV-like virus based on serology and infant histopathology similar to pulmonary reactive lymphoid hyperplasia (PRLH), a condition associated with EBV in HIV-infected children. To further examine the presence of EBV or an EBV-like virus in mountain gorillas, we conducted the first population-wide survey of oral samples for an EBV-like virus in a nonhuman great ape. We discovered that mountain gorillas are widely infected (n = 143/332) with a specific strain of lymphocryptovirus 1 (GbbLCV-1). Fifty-two percent of infant mountain gorillas were orally shedding GbbLCV-1, suggesting primary infection during this stage of life, similar to what is seen in humans in less developed countries. We then identified GbbLCV-1 in post-mortem infant lung tissues demonstrating histopathological lesions consistent with PRLH, suggesting primary infection with GbbLCV-1 is associated with PRLH in infants. Together, our findings demonstrate that mountain gorilla's infection with GbbLCV-1 could provide valuable information for human disease in a natural great ape setting and have potential conservation implications in this critically endangered species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5352
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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