Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery

, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 335–339 | Cite as

Oral hairy leukoplakia in healthy immunocompetent patients: a small case series

  • Daire ShanahanEmail author
  • Rachel Cowie
  • Helen Rogers
  • Konrad Staines
Case Report



Oral hairy leukoplakia (OHL) is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and usually presents in patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection and systemic immunosuppression. It is rarely seen in patients who are immunocompetent. It is clinically characterised as an asymptomatic, soft, white and corrugated lesion that cannot be scraped from the surface it adheres to.


Immunocompetent patients with OHL attending Bristol Dental Hospital within the last 6 months were identified. EBV infection was demonstrated using EBV in situ hybridization. Clinical features and medical history were determined by reviewing medical records.

Case report

Four cases of OHL in immunocompetent individuals were identified. All lesions were located on the lateral borders of the tongue.


OHL should be considered as a differential diagnosis for white patches on the lateral borders of the tongue in apparently healthy immunocompetent patients, even when they do not have a typical corrugated appearance. OHL should no longer be regarded as pathognomonic for HIV infection or systemic immunosuppression.


Oral hairy leukoplakia Epstein-Barr virus HIV-negative patients Immunocompetent 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

Written informed consent was obtained from the participants for publication of the case series.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Oral MedicineThe University of Bristol Dental HospitalBristolEngland

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