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Can EBV infection be cured? (EBV is one of the viruses which cause cancer in HIV-infected patients)
Apr 27, 2002

I have a history of Hodgkin's Disease, cancer of the lymph nodes. I've heard that EBV infection can often cause lymphoma. I've had HIV for 9 years. I'm doing well, but I know I'm not "cured." I've heard that science can't cure any viral infection, but our immune system can control them to some extent. Is this true? Why or why not?

Response from Dr. Dezube

You ask an excellent question! Sounds like you've done okay in terms of your Hodgkin's disease. It is indeed true that the EBV virus is found in the vast majority of patients who have HIV-related Hodgkin's disease. It is also true, as your query indicates, that the immune system can control EBV infection, without necessarily curing it. The reason that these EBV infections are so hard to cure is that the virus becomes dormant (in medical terminology we call this latency). When the virus becomes dormant, it usually does not respond well to drugs. The good news is that your EBV infection may remain dormant indefinitely. It is very important that you remain on HIV drugs. By treating your HIV, your immune system will be stronger. A stronger immune system in turn will both fight off the EBV virus and decrease the likelihood that your Hodgkin's will come back. BD.


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