Epstein-Barr virus infection of mammary epithelial cells and risk of associated malignancy
The human tumor virus, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), is a γ-herpesvirus associated with human epithelial and B-cell malignancies. The association of EBV infection with breast cancer has been reported in many recent studies (1). EBV can be divided into two major types, EBV type 1 and EBV type 2. Type 1 is dominant throughout most of the world, but the two types are equally prevalent in Africa (2). The EBV infection pattern is classified as either lytic, or latent 0, I, II and III (3). LMP1 is the well-documented oncoprotein of the EBV latent gene products (4). EBV strongly constitutes a risk factor for malignant transformation because it can infect mammary epithelial cells “MECs” and its DNA fragments can induce immortalization in these cells (5,6). EBV is incriminated as a carcinogenic agent by the World Health Organization (7) so; a childhood immunization against EBV might have a great impact on public health. This editorial is on a research article by Hu et al. (8) entitled “Epstein-Barr Virus Infection of Mammary Epithelial Cells Promotes Malignant Transformation”. This editorial will focus on the evidence that delayed EBV infection causes latent infection of “MECs” leading to phenotypic changes which is a part of a multistep process of breast carcinogenesis together with other genetic and environmental factors.