The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is found in a variety of tumors whose incidence greatly varies around the world. A poorly explored hypothesis is that particular EBV strains account for this phenomenon. We report that M81, a virus isolated from a Chinese patient with nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC), shows remarkable similarity to other NPC viruses but is divergent from all other known strains. M81 exhibited a reversed tropism relative to common strains with a reduced ability to infect B cells and a high propensity to infect epithelial cells, which is in agreement with its isolation from carcinomas. M81 spontaneously replicated in B cells in vitro and in vivo at unusually high levels, in line with the enhanced viral replication observed in NPC patients. Spontaneous replication and epitheliotropism could be partly ascribed to polymorphisms within viral proteins. We suggest considering M81 and its closely related isolates as an EBV subtype with enhanced pathogenic potential.