EpsteinBarr Virus in PreColumbian Andean Mummies
Donald B. Bowling
Erika A. Woodson
Enrique Gerszten and Marvin J. Allison, Medical College of Virginia Campus, Richmond, VA
Fifty livers from mummies of northern Chile and southern Peru were used in this study. Tissues were
rehydrated with Ruffer's solution, blocked in paraffin and cut to 5 microns. Slides were hybridized
using two monoclonal antibodies to EBV. Dako BZLF1 protein ZEBRA and LMP1 were visualized using the
chromogen 3-AMINO9ETHYL-CARBAZOLE. A 23 MER oligonucleotide probe specific for the NOTI/PST I region of
the EBV genome DNA was used with the DAKO chromogen 5-BROM-4-CHLORO-3-INDOLYLPHOSPHATE NITRO TETRAZOLIUM.
An ALU probe detected the presence of DNA in the specimen with one million copies in the DNA chain.
Twelve of the fifty livers were positive with the antibody BZLF1, and 26 were positive with the LMP1
antibody. Total antibodies positive was 28 individuals (56%) of which children were positive in 64%.
Seven of the fifty specimens were positive with the EBV probe. Three of these mummies were over 3,000
years old, one was 1,600, and another 1,200 and 2 were 700 years old. Two probe positive specimens were
negative for antibodies. The differences between the antibody and probe results are possibly related to
the random fragmentation of the DNA, which interferes with the probe action. The two-antibody difference
is related to cell activity; BZLF1 is and early antigen while LMP1 is specific to the latent membrane
protein-1, which forms discrete patches on the plasma membrane. The pre-Columbian Indians were infected
with the "persister" virus at least 3,000 years ago and the disease mimics that seen today in developing
nations. While the virus was discovered in 1961, many of the "emerging diseases of today are simply the
discovery of an old pathogen."