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Tracking the viral link to lymphoma

Epstein-Barr has genes that can either suppress or promote blood cancer

While scientists have known for years that the Epstein-Barr virus harbors genes that can cause lymphoma, researchers now report evidence that the virus also carries the opposite cargo — a cancer suppressor gene. This seems to work by alerting the immune system to renegade cell growth caused by the virus, directing the body to attack, researchers report March 12 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

The viral gene, called EBNA3B, might thus help maintain chronic Epstein-Barr infection of cells without allowing unchecked cell growth — a trade-off that represents an evolutionary adaptation to minimize cancer risk to the host, virologist Martin Allday of Imperial College London and his colleagues conclude.

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