To determine if rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients have an increased frequency of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) shedding into saliva, throat washings were collected from 59 patients with RA and 64 healthy adult controls. EBV in filtered samples was detected by transformation of human umbilical cord lymphocytes. EBV was detected in 27% (16/59) of throat washings of RA patients compared to 11% (7/64) of control samples. This difference is significant (p less than 0.05). RA patients on steroids had a frequency of positivity of 43% (10/23) compared to 17% (6/36) in patients not on steroids. No correlation was demonstrated between steroid dose received by the patient and detection of EBV in throat washings. Parotid fluid samples were collected from 18 RA patients and 11 healthy controls and were tested for EBV by the transformation bioassay. EBV was detected in 18% (2/11) of samples from normal controls, but samples from RA patients were uniformly negative.