A pilot study to test the feasibility of a long-term cohort investigation into the relationship of Epstein-Barr (E.B.) virus to Burkitt's lymphoma was undertaken in the West Nile District of Uganda, where Burkitt's lymphoma is endemic. Antibodies to E.B. virus were assessed by the indirect immunofluorescence method using serum collected during the pilot survey in November, 1968, from 1122 children. At a second survey eighteen months later, all children were accounted for, and in 447 who were re-bled, antibody levels to E.B. virus had remained sufficiently stable to make a long-term study possible. The study also disclosed important epidemiological information about E.B. virus in the West Nile District. Thus by the age of three, 90% of children had detectable antibody to E.B. virus, but this percentage declined with age to about 75% by age fifteen. Results of the second survey indicate that the decline with age is best explained by a recent epidemic of E.B. virus with a differentially greater incidence in infants and young children. Although there was geographical variation in the proportion of children with E.B. virus antibodies consistent with a recent epidemic of E.B. virus, the pattern of variation bore no apparent relationship to the time-space clustering of Burkitt's lymphoma previously reported in the West Nile.
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