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February 1992

Epstein-Barr Virus-Related Persistent Erythema Multiforme in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Dermatology (Drs Drago, Romagnoli, and Rebora) and Infectious Diseases (Dr Loi), University of Genoa (Italy), and the Giannina Gaslini Institute (Dr Loi), Genoa, Italy.

Arch Dermatol. 1992;128(2):217-222. doi:10.1001/archderm.1992.01680120089009

• Background.—  Erythema multiforme (EM) has been rarely reported in Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)—associated diseases; this includes patients with chronic fatigue syndrome who have chronic or recurrent and disabling illness and an abnormal antibody reactivity to EBV. We describe a patient fulfilling the chronic fatigue syndrome diagnostic criteria who had developed an unusually persistent EM resistant to corticosteroids therapy. The EBV DNA was studied in skin EM lesions, throat washings, peripheral mononuclear cells, and plasma. The EBV antigens were studied in skin EM lesions and in mononuclear cells. The patient was followed up to 2 years.

Observations.—  The patient had abnormal titers of antibodies against various EBV antigens and by immunofluorescence she disclosed the EBV nuclear antigen and the viral capsid antigen in the blood vessels of the affected skin. The dot blot hybridization assay detected viral DNA in throat washings and mononuclear cells, but not in plasma. The presence of the viral genomic content in lesional skin is suggested by the autoradiographic signal and by the difference from appropriate control specimens. Skin lesions and constitutional symptoms cleared after acyclovir sodium therapy and recurred after discontinuation of this therapy.

Conclusions.—  This is the first EM case in which evidence of the EBV causal role has been provided. The association with chronic fatigue syndrome suggests the EBV role in selected cases of this syndrome.(Arch Dermatol. 1992;128:217-222)

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