Epstein-Barr Virus (Mono); Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

How does it infect the body, and what happens afterward?

Epstein Barr virus
How does it infect the body, and what happens afterward?

The Epstein Barr virus infection requires contact with saliva, genital secretions, or mucus. Intimate contact through genitals is less likely. It is more commonly transmitted through oropharyngeal secretions, especially saliva. In some cases, mononucleosis can also be transmitted through organ transplantations and blood transfusion.

Once in the oropharyngeal mucosa of the newly infected individual, Epstein Barr virus infects B cells found in the epithelium. It continues replicating until it reaches other immune tissues. The virus triggers a cellular and humoral response throughout this time, which is then helpful in detecting the disease through antibodies against EBV. The cellular response is predominantly through natural killer cells, but it also causes a proliferation of B lymphocytes which may sometimes result in lymphoma and other B-lymphocyte malignancies.

The most predominant sign of an immune response is fever, which happens in response to cytokine release by B lymphocytes. The proliferation of these cells is such that it is observed in a complete blood count and contributes to swelling the lymphatic tissue, especially in the oropharynx.

Viral infection takes very long to clear completely. According to some authors, even after the patient stops experiencing symptoms, they could stay with traceable remains of the virus for up to 32 weeks. In some cases, the patient is still positive after a few decades.

Written by Greg M. Wilcox

With a background in medical research, I'm dedicated to unraveling the complexities of health and nutrition in a way that's easy to understand and implement. From debunking myths to sharing science-backed insights, my goal is to guide you on a journey towards optimal well-being.