Introduction: Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a ubiquitous virus that infects more than 90% of the world's population, and is implicated in lymphoma pathogenesis. However, in Zambia during the diagnosis of these lymphomas, the association of the virus with the lymphomas is not established. Since most patients with lymphomas have poor prognosis, the identification of the virus within the lymphoma lesion will allow for more targeted therapy. The aim of this study was to provide evidence of the presence of the EBV in lymphomas diagnosed at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) in Lusaka, Zambia.


Methods: one hundred and fifty archival formalin-fixed paraffin embedded suspected lymphoma tissues stored over a 4-year period in the Histopathology Laboratory at the UTH in Lusaka, Zambia, were analysed. Histological methods were used to identify the lymphomas, and the virus was detected using Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). Subtyping of the virus was achieved through DNA sequencing of the EBNA-2 region of the viral genome. Chi square or fisher's exact test was used to evaluate the association between EBV status, type of lymphoma and gender.


Results: the majority of the lymphomas identified were non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) (80%) followed by Hodgkin's lymphoma (HL) (20%). EBV was detected in 51.8% of the cases, 54.5% of which were associated with NHL cases, while 40.9% associated with HL cases. The predominant subtype of the virus in both types of lymphomas was subtype 1. One of the lymphoma cases harboured both subtype 1 and 2 of the virus.


Conclusion: this study showed that EBV is closely associated with lymphomas. Therefore, providing evidence of the presence of the virus in lymphoma tissues will aid in targeted therapy. To our knowledge this is the first time such data has been generated in Zambia.