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Serological response to Epstein-Barr virus early antigen is associated with gastric cancer and human immunodeficiency virus infection in Zambian adults: a case-control study study

Violet Kayamba
Mwaka Monze
Akwi Wasi Asombang
Kanekwa Zyambo
Paul Kelly


Introduction: Gastric cancer is one of the major causes of cancer related deaths, but data from sub-Saharan Africa are very scanty. The cancer genome atlas (TCGA) initiative confirmed Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) related cancer as a distinct subtype, and we set out to look for serological evidence of its role in a sub-Saharan African patient group. Methods: We used stored serum samples obtained from a gastric cancer case-control study conducted between 2010 and 2012 in Lusaka, Zambia. A total of 147 patients were included with 51 gastric adenocarcinoma cases and 96 age and sex matched controls. The presence of antibodies to EBV nuclear antigen-1 (EBNA-1) and early antigen (EA) was determined using commercially available ELISA kits. Data were analysed in STATA Stata Corp, College Station TX. Results: Over 90% of all the samples analysed were positive for antibodies to EBNA-1. The presence of antibodies to EBV EA was significantly higher in gastric cancer cases than in controls, (OR 4.38; 95% CI 1.53-13.06, P=0.0027), with an attributable risk of 23%. HIV infection was also associated with EBV EA seroprevalence (OR 10.97; 95% CI 2.26 -13.06, P=0.001) but not EBNA-1 (OR 0.81; 95% CI 0.10 -38.75, P=0.596). There was no association of EBV infection with age below 45 years, Helicobacter pylori infection, intestinal metaplasia, gastric atrophy or inflammation. Conclusion: We therefore conclude that EBV exposure is common among Zambian adults and that EBV EA seropositivity is associated with gastric cancer and HIV infection, but not premalignant lesions.

Pan African Medical Journal 2016; 23

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eISSN: 1937-8688