A possible role for SV40, a macaque polyomavirus, in non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) in humans was raised recently by the reported detection of SV40 DNA in tumor tissue. Animals with SV40-induced tumors frequently produce high-level antibodies against T antigen, the SV40 oncoprotein. In this study, we assessed whether SV40 T antibody measured in humans supported a relationship between SV40 and NHL. Subjects were sampled from a U.S. population-based case-control study of NHL, according to presence of antibodies against capsids of SV40 and BK, a related human polyomavirus (n = 85 cases, n = 95 controls). T antibody was measured by enzyme immunoassay. We also evaluated serum specimens from SV40-infected and SV40-uninfected macaques (n = 19 and n = 8, respectively), SV40-uninfected hamsters (n = 5), and hamsters with SV40-induced tumors (n = 10). Hamsters with SV40-induced tumors all produced robust SV40 T antibody (median absorbance, 0.99), whereas SV40-uninfected hamsters and macaques had much lower levels (median absorbance, 0.05 and 0.04, respectively). NHL cases, controls, and SV40-infected macaques resembled these latter two groups, generally showing only low-level T antibody (median absorbance, 0.03, 0.04, and 0.04, respectively). Overall, only five cases (6%) and five controls (5%) had T antibody responses classified as seropositive (odds ratio, 1.2; 95% confidence interval, 0.3-4.6). Interestingly, all 10 humans with T antibody responses also showed antibody responses to BK capsid. We found no association between the presence of T antibody and NHL, arguing against SV40 as a cause of NHL. Infrequent and low-level T antibody responses among humans could represent cross-reactivity to BK virus T antigen.
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