No doubt you've heard about mononucleosis before. You've probably heard it called the "kissing disease" when you were young.
But this kissing disease is much more than that. The Epstein Barr Virus EBV causes it, and it's more common than people realize. Over 95% of adults and 50% of children have had EBV in the US alone.
If you have EBV, you're in the right place and are looking for more information about the Epstein Barr Virus and Epstein Barr virus lab tests.
EBV infects your blood and causes your immune system to react. The Epstein Barr virus lab test can detect this reaction by detecting the antibodies produced. Keep reading to find out all about EBV and blood tests.
What Is the Epstein Barr Virus?
The Epstein Barr Virus EBV is a herpes virus that infects humans. EBV infections are common, and most of the time, you'll never know you had the virus in the first place.
You might automatically associate the Epstein Barr Virus with mononucleosis (mono), but the truth is EBV doesn't always result in infectious mononucleosis. This is because many people can test positive for the EBV virus even when they've never had infectious mononucleosis before.
Risk Factors for Epstein Barr Virus
Risk factors include having close contact with another person's bodily secretions like sexual intercourse and kissing.
Young children and teenagers sharing toys, toothbrushes, cell phones, or food are also at increased risk.
If you've received an organ transplant or blood transfusion, you have a slight risk of getting EBV from the donor.
Cause of Epstein Barr Virus and Mono
An EBV infection occurs when your B cells become infected with EBV. Once your B cells are infected, the infection travels through your liver, spleen, and lymph nodes.
If your body responds enough to the presence of EBV, you'll develop symptoms of infectious mononucleosis.
How Do You Get EBV
EBV is spread by bodily fluids, mainly saliva, which explains the term kissing disease. You can also get EBV by sharing things like your toothbrush, eating utensils, or a drink. EBV is also spread by blood and semen.
You can infect other people with EBV from the moment you get infected. And you don't need to have symptoms of EBV to pass it on to other people. You're contagious for as long as the virus is active in your body.
Signs and Symptoms of the Epstein Barr Virus
EBV infections are more likely to cause infections in teenagers and adults than in children. When EBV develops into mononucleosis (mono) infection, you'll notice symptoms like:
- Extreme fatigue
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Swollen tonsils
- Enlarged spleen
Unfortunately, symptoms can be severe and last up to a month. And feelings of fatigue tend to linger on much longer.
Once you get infected with the EBV virus, it remains inactive in your body for the rest of your life. Sometimes the virus can reactivate in your body but cause no symptoms.
However, EBV can reactivate and cause symptoms similar to mono if you have a weakened immune system.
Usually, your body takes care of EBV with no issues. But sometimes, complications can occur. Complications include:
- Low levels of platelets
- A ruptured spleen
- Inflammation of the heart muscle
EBV can also cause nervous system conditions like Guillain-Barre syndrome, meningitis, and encephalitis.
EBV is thought to be linked with certain autoimmune disorders. EBV appears to change how some of our genes are expressed, which sometimes leads to an increased risk of developing an autoimmune disorder. Autoimmune conditions linked to EBV are:
- Type 1 diabetes
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Multiple sclerosis
- Celiac disease
- Graves disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Hashimoto's thyroiditis
Another vital thing to know about EBV is that it can increase your risk of developing certain types of cancers, including:
- Hodgkin Lymphoma
- Burkitt Lymphoma
- Nasopharyngeal cancer
- Stomach cancer
Cancers linked to EBV aren't common in North America but still occur. You'll mostly find EBV cancers in Africa and parts of Southeast Asia. It's estimated that EBV contributes to approximately 1.5% of all human cancer cases worldwide.
Scientists are still studying how viral proteins, RNA, and the overall understanding of viruses better understand the link to cancer. Cell mutations from EBV can eventually lead to cancerous changes in your cells.
Epstein Barr Virus Lab Test
A blood test is helpful to distinguish between mono, EBV, or some other illness. Some people may want to get tested because they have a compromised immune system; other people may be looking to explain their symptoms.
Also, if you're pregnant or breastfeeding, it's even more important to understand the cause of the symptoms you're having.
Whatever the case, both mononucleosis tests and an EBV blood test are excellent diagnostic tools.
You'll want to find a comprehensive EBV panel at Ulta Lab Tests. A complete look at your EBV biomarkers will better determine your infection state, whether past or present.
It's important to know there is more than one EBV antibody test. And not all EBV antibody tests will show antibodies to EBV.
How are the tests used?
Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) antibody blood tests are used to assist with diagnosing EBV infection, which is the most common cause of mono (infectious mononucleosis) if an individual is symptomatic, but their mono test is negative.
In pregnant women who have viral illness symptoms, one or several EBV antibody tests might be ordered in addition to tests for toxoplasmosis, cytomegalovirus (CMV), and other infections (that are sometimes part of the TORCH screen) to assist with distinguishing between EBV and other conditions that might result in similar symptoms.
Those tests might be ordered if an asymptomatic individual has been exposed to EBV previously or is susceptible to developing a primary EBV infection. It is not performed routinely but might be ordered when a person, such as an immunocompromised individual or an adolescent, has come into close contact with someone who has mononucleosis.
It is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that several tests be ordered to help determine whether an individual is susceptive to EBV or for detecting a reactivated EBV infection, prior infection, or recent infection.
Those tests include the following:
Standard laboratory tests in this panel include:
First is the EBV-VCA IgG/IgM test (viral capsid antigen VCA). If this is positive, it means you're currently infected, or you've been infected in the past.
A positive EBV-EBNA IgG (nuclear antigen) or an antibody to EBNA means you've had past infections.
A positive EBV-EA-D IgG (early antigen) means you may have an active or reactive EBV infection.
The EBV antibody test or Epstein Barr, EBV Early Antigen test will let you know if your EBV virus is active.
The Monospot Test
A heterophile antibody test or a Monospot test is one of the best initial tests to diagnose a mono-infection. Heterophile antibody testing is excellent because heterophile antibodies can be present in the first five days of illness from infectious mononucleosis.
Heterophile antibody tests are quick, inexpensive, and easy to use. A positive heterophile antibody test should be followed with more antibody testing.
Be sure to discuss your test results with your doctor or infectious disease specialist to get the best interpretation and course of action based on your results.
EBV doesn't have any specific treatment or even a vaccine. And since a virus causes EBV, antibiotics won't do the trick. Your best course of action in managing symptoms of EBV include:
- Getting plenty of rest
- Drinking lots of fluids
- Taking Tylenol or Advil to relieve pain and fever
- Avoid heavy lifting
- Avoid extreme physical activity
Sometimes doctors might prescribe steroid treatment for severe symptoms like throat and spleen inflammation.
Children with EBV and infectious mononucleosis should stay home from school for at least 2 to 4 weeks or attend half days or until their symptoms of fatigue have improved. Children also need to avoid contact sports for up to a month or until cleared by their doctor.
Frequently Asked Questions
Never be afraid to find the answers to your questions. Even though EBV and mononucleosis are common worldwide, many people are unaware of the details.
Chances are, many other people have the same questions you do. Let's take a look at some FAQs now to get you started.
- Infectious mononucleosis mainly occurs between 15 and 24 years old
- False-negative test rates occur almost 25% of the time in the first week
- You can be contagious for up to a year after getting EBV
- You usually don't get mono a second time
- There is no cure for mono
- You can have mono and not realize it if you have mild symptoms
More Interesting EBV Facts
Symptoms of mono don't start straight away and often take 4 to 6 weeks to show up after you're exposed.
College students and people serving in the military are among the most common groups of people to get mono.
Adults are rarely infected with mono because they usually get it as a child. But when adults do get mono, they tend to have less lymph node swelling and throat pain and more liver enlargement, and even jaundice.
The term infectious mononucleosis was coined in 1920 to describe the specific collection of symptoms doctors would often find.
Your EBV Blood Test
Your health is essential, so choose Ulta Lab Tests for your Epstein Barr Virus lab test. Ulta Lab Tests are highly accurate, reliable, and affordable.
The best part is you don't need a referral or insurance coverage. Your results are kept secure and confidential. And you'll typically receive your result in just 24 to 48 hours for most tests.
So take charge of your health today and get tested with Ulta Lab Tests.