Age-specific Epstein-Barr Virus antibody prevalence declined in US children

Age-specific Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) antibody (Ab) prevalence declined in American children from 2003-2004 to 2009-2010, according to Henry H. Balfour, Jr, MD, of the University of Minnesota at Minneapolis, and colleagues. White race, younger age, health insurance coverage, higher household income, and higher household education were associated with lower rates.

The investigators tested sera from 9338 children in four two-year National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) cycles from 2003 to 2010. The overall age-adjusted EBV Ab prevalence in 2009-2010 was 65%, a significant decrease from 72% in 2003-2004 (P=0.027); this decrease was primarily among non-Hispanic whites. The age-specific Ab prevalence in 2009-2010 was: ages 6-8, 50%; ages 9-11, 55%; ages 12-14, 59%; ages 15-17, 69%; and ages 18-19, 89%.

Dr. Balfour and colleagues found that, in combined data from all cycles adjusted for age, income, insurance, and education, EBV Ab prevalence was 64% among whites (non-Hispanic), significantly lower than rates of 88% for blacks (non-Hispanic) and 86% for Hispanics. Within each race/ethnicity in the combined data, younger age, having health insurance coverage, higher household income, and higher household education were all significantly associated with lower Ab prevalence. 

The researchers concluded that "High Ab prevalence among children age 12 and older supports development of a vaccine targeting children younger than 12. If age-specific Ab prevalence continues to decline, more susceptible children and pre-adolescents could be protected by a prophylactic vaccine."