Mendelian randomisation identifies priority groups for prophylactic EBV vaccination

Marisa D Muckian, James F Wilson, Graham S Taylor, Helen R Stagg, Nicola Pirastu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

BACKGROUND: Epstein Barr virus (EBV) infects ~ 95% of the population worldwide and is known to cause adverse health outcomes such as Hodgkin's, non-Hodgkin's lymphomas, and multiple sclerosis. There is substantial interest and investment in developing infection-preventing vaccines for EBV. To effectively deploy such vaccines, it is vital that we understand the risk factors for infection. Why particular individuals do not become infected is currently unknown. The current literature, describes complex, often conflicting webs of intersecting factors-sociodemographic, clinical, genetic, environmental-, rendering causality difficult to decipher. We aimed to use Mendelian randomization (MR) to overcome the issues posed by confounding and reverse causality to determine the causal risk factors for the acquisition of EBV.

METHODS: We mapped the complex evidence from the literature prior to this study factors associated with EBV serostatus (as a proxy for infection) into a causal diagram to determine putative risk factors for our study. Using data from the UK Biobank of 8422 individuals genomically deemed to be of white British ancestry between the ages of 40 and 69 at recruitment between the years 2006 and 2010, we performed a genome wide association study (GWAS) of EBV serostatus, followed by a Two Sample MR to determine which putative risk factors were causal.

RESULTS: Our GWAS identified two novel loci associated with EBV serostatus. In MR analyses, we confirmed shorter time in education, an increase in number of sexual partners, and a lower age of smoking commencement, to be causal risk factors for EBV serostatus.

CONCLUSIONS: Given the current interest and likelihood of a future EBV vaccine, these factors can inform vaccine development and deployment strategies by completing the puzzle of causality. Knowing these risk factors allows identification of those most likely to acquire EBV, giving insight into what age to vaccinate and who to prioritise when a vaccine is introduced.

Original languageEnglish
Article number65
Pages (from-to)65
JournalBMC Infectious Diseases
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 3 Feb 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Humans
  • Adult
  • Middle Aged
  • Aged
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human/genetics
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections/genetics
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Vaccination
  • Vaccines


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