Precursor frequencies of cytotoxic lymphocytes to autologous Epstein-Barr virus-transformed B cells and serum titers of anti-Epstein-Barr virus-related antibodies were measured in 68 atomic bomb survivors to clarify the immune mechanism controlling Epstein-Barr virus infection. The precursor frequency was negatively correlated with the titer of anti-early antigen IgG, which is probably produced at the stage of viral reactivation. A positive correlation between the precursor frequency and titer of anti-Epstein-Barr virus-associated nuclear antigen antibody was also observed, indicating that the precursor frequency reflects the degree of in vivo destruction by T cells of the virus-infected cells. These results suggest that T-cell memory specific to Epstein-Barr virus keeps the virus under control and that the precursor frequency assay is useful for the evaluation of immune responses to Epstein-Barr virus. However, no significant effect of atomic bomb radiation on the precursor frequency was observed in the present study, probably due to the limited number of participants.

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