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Infectious mononucleosis, also known as Pfeiffer’s disease, mono (in the United States of America) and more commonly known as glandular fever in other English-speaking countries. It occurs most commonly in adolescents and young adults, where it is characterized by fever, sore throat, muscle soreness, and fatigue. Infectious mononucleosis typically produces a mild illness and is often asymptomatic. Mononucleosis is predominantly caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which infects B cells (B-lymphocytes), producing a reactive lymphocytosis predominantly consisting of atypical lymphocytes, a specific type of T-cell that gives the disease its name.

The name “kissing disease” is often applied to mono in casual speech, as in developed countries it is most common at the same age when adolescents and young adults are initiating romantic behavior. This co-occurrence is not apparent in undeveloped countries, where poor sanitation and close living arrangements cause the causative virus to be spread at a much earlier age, when the disease is mild and seldom diagnosed.

Symptoms of Infectious mononucleosis

  • Fever—this varies from mild to severe, but is seen in nearly all cases.
  • Tender and enlarged/swollen lymph nodes—particularly the posterior cervical lymph nodes.
  • Sore throat—White patches on the tonsils and back of the throat are often seen
  • Muscle weakness and Mental fatigue (sometimes extreme)

Additional symptoms include:

  • Enlarged spleen (splenomegaly, which may lead to rupture) and/or liver (hepatomegaly)
  • Petechial hemorrhage
  • Abdominal pain – a possible symptom of a potentially fatal rupture of the spleen.[1]
  • Aching muscles
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness or disorientation
  • Uncontrolled shaking at times
  • Unable to swallow due to enlarged tonsils
  • Dry cough
  • Supra-orbital oedema—the eyes become puffy and swollen—may occur in the early stages of infection

After an initial prodrome of 1-2 weeks, the fatigue of infectious mononucleosis often lasts from 1-2 months. The virus can remain dormant in the B cells indefinitely after symptoms have disappeared, and resurface at a later date. Many people exposed to the Epstein-Barr virus do not show symptoms of the disease, but carry the virus. This is especially true in children, in whom infection seldom causes more than a very mild cold which often goes undiagnosed. Children are typically just carriers of the disease. This feature, along with mono’s long (4 to 6 week) incubation period, makes epidemiological control of the disease impractical. About 6% of people who have had infectious mononucleosis will relapse.

Mononucleosis can cause the spleen to swell. Rupture may occur without trauma, but impact to the spleen is also a factor. Other complications include hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) causing elevation of serum bilirubin (in approximately 40% of patients), jaundice (approximately 5% of cases), and anemia (a deficiency of red blood cells). In rare cases, death may result from severe hepatitis or splenic rupture.

Although most cases of mononucleosis are caused by the E.B. virus, the condition is defined by the clinical presentation and laboratory findings. Cytomegalovirus can produce a similar illness, usually with less throat pain, and also generate atypical lymphocyte proliferation. In recent years, as precise virological and serological studies are more commonly done to identify the actual causative virus, some clinicians have taken to use “mononucleosis” to refer only to the E.B. virus cases. Symptoms similar to those of mononucleosis can also be caused by adenovirus, acute HIV infection and the protozoan Toxoplasma gondii.

Diagnosis for Infectious mononucleosis


Peripheral blood smear (low power) showing lymphocytosis from a 16-year-old male with pharyngitis and positive monospot test.

Peripheral blood smear (low power) showing lymphocytosis from a 16-year-old male with pharyngitis and positive monospot test.

Laboratory findings usually include an elevated white blood cell count and abnormal liver function tests. The white cell count elevation is predominantly in the lymphocyte portion, and of those the majority is often of the atypical form characteristic of the disease.

Specific tests for EBV include:

  • A monospot test (positive for infectious mononucleosis)
  • Epstein-Barr virus antigen by immunofluorescence (positive for EBV)
  • Epstein-Barr virus antibody titers to help distinguish acute infection from past infection with EBV

Being tested for infectious mononucleosis is fairly simple. A finger prick is typically done and a small drop of blood dropped onto the monospot card, which is then taken and checked for the white blood cell count.


Mononucleosis is typically transmitted from asymptomatic individuals through saliva, earning it the name “the kissing disease”, or by sharing a drink, or sharing eating utensils. As with many viral infections, such as chicken pox, antibodies are developed by individuals who become infected with the disease and recover. In most individuals, these antibodies remain in their system, creating lifelong immunity to further infections.[2]

Atypical presentations of mononucleosis/EBV infection

In small children, the course of the disease is frequently asymptomatic. Some adult patients suffer fever, tiredness, lassitude (abnormal fatigue), depression, lethargy, and chronic lymph node swelling, for months or years. This variant of mononucleosis has been referred to as chronic EBV syndrome or chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), although CFS is a distinct condition from IM. Still, current studies suggest there is an association between infectious mononucleosis and CFS.[3] In case of a weakening of the immune system, a reactivation of the Epstein-Barr virus is possible; in CFS there is evidence of immune activation also. “Chronic fatigue states” as defined by the CDC criteria for CFS, appear to occur in 10% of those who contract mononucleosis.[3] Chronic fatigue may then be a rather common side effect of infectious mononucleosis. On the other hand, studies conducted by the CDC and others[who?] have discounted a link between EBV and CFS.

Perhaps a majority of chronic post infectious “fatigue states” appear not to be caused by a chronic viral infection, but are triggered by the acute infection. Direct and indirect evidence of persistent viral infection has been found in CFS, for example in muscle and via detection of an unusually low molecular weight RNase L enzyme, although the commonality and significance of such findings is disputed. Hickie et al contend that mononucleosis appears to cause a hit and run injury to the brain in the early stages of the acute phase, thereby causing the chronic fatigue state. This would explain why in mononucleosis, fatigue very often lingers for months after the Epstein Barr virus has been controlled by the immune system. Just how infectious mononucleosis changes the brain and causes fatigue (or lack thereof) in certain individuals remains to be seen. Such a mechanism may include activation of microglia in the brain of some individuals during the acute infection. Microglia may remain activated or “damaged” for months following infection, thereby causing a slowly dissipating fatigue. Secondary infections can occur. Such infections include mild swelling of the cartilage between the sternum and ribs occurring approximately one month after initial diagnosis.

Treatment of Infectious mononucleosis

Infectious mononucleosis is generally self-limiting and only symptomatic and/or supportive treatments are used.[4] Rest is recommended during the acute phase of the infection, but activity should be resumed once acute symptoms have resolved. Nevertheless heavy physical activity and contact sports should be avoided to abrogate the risk of splenic rupture, for at least one month following initial infection and until splenomegaly has resolved, as determined by ultrasound scan.[4]

In terms of pharmacotherapies, acetaminophen/paracetamol or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be used to reduce fever and pain.

Intravenous corticosteroids, usually hydrocortisone or dexamethasone, are not recommended for routine use[5] but may be useful if there is a risk of airway obstruction, severe thrombocytopenia, or hemolytic anemia.[6][7]

There is little evidence to support the use of aciclovir, although it may reduce initial viral shedding.[8] However, the antiviral drug valacyclovir has recently been shown to lower or eliminate the presence of the Epstein-Barr virus in subjects afflicted with acute mononucleosis, leading to a significant decrease in the severity of symptoms. [9][10][11] Antibiotics are not used as they are ineffective against viral infections. The antibiotics amoxicillin and ampicillin are contraindicated in the case of any coinciding bacterial infections during mononucleosis because their use can frequently precipitate a non-allergic rash. In a small percentage of cases, mononucleosis infection is complicated by co-infection with streptococcal infection in the throat and tonsils (strep throat). Penicillin or other antibiotics (with the exception of the two mentioned above) should be administered to treat the strep throat. Opioid analgesics are also contraindicated due to risk of respiratory depression.[6]

Morbidity and mortality

Fatalities from mononucleosis are near impossible in developed nations. Uncommon, nonfatal complications exist, including various forms of CNS and hematological affection:

  • CNS: Meningitis, encephalitis, hemiplegia and transverse myelitis. EBV infection has also been proposed as a risk factor for the development of multiple sclerosis (MS)[12], but this has not been affirmed.
  • Hematologic: EBV can cause autoimmune hemolytic anemia (direct Coombs test is positive) and various cytopenias.

Homeopathy Treatment for Infectious mononucleosis

Keywords: homeopathy, homeopathic, treatment, cure, remedy, remedies, medicine

Homeopathy treats the person as a whole. It means that homeopathic treatment focuses on the patient as a person, as well as his pathological condition. The homeopathic medicines are selected after a full individualizing examination and case-analysis, which includes the medical history of the patient, physical and mental constitution, family history, presenting symptoms, underlying pathology, possible causative factors etc. A miasmatic tendency (predisposition/susceptibility) is also often taken into account for the treatment of chronic conditions. A homeopathy doctor tries to treat more than just the presenting symptoms. The focus is usually on what caused the disease condition? Why ‘this patient’ is sick ‘this way’. The disease diagnosis is important but in homeopathy, the cause of disease is not just probed to the level of bacteria and viruses. Other factors like mental, emotional and physical stress that could predispose a person to illness are also looked for. No a days, even modern medicine also considers a large number of diseases as psychosomatic. The correct homeopathy remedy tries to correct this disease predisposition. The focus is not on curing the disease but to cure the person who is sick, to restore the health. If a disease pathology is not very advanced, homeopathy remedies do give a hope for cure but even in incurable cases, the quality of life can be greatly improved with homeopathic medicines.

The homeopathic remedies (medicines) given below indicate the therapeutic affinity but this is not a complete and definite guide to the homeopathy treatment of this condition. The symptoms listed against each homeopathic remedy may not be directly related to this disease because in homeopathy general symptoms and constitutional indications are also taken into account for selecting a remedy. To study any of the following remedies in more detail, please visit the Materia Medica section at Hpathy.

None of these medicines should be taken without professional advice and guidance.

Homeopathy Remedies for Infectious mononucleosis :

Acon., ail., alumn., anan., apis., ars-i., ars., bapt., bar-c., bar-i., bar-m., bell.,bism., calc., carc., cist., clem., dulc., gels., graph., hep., iod., iodof., kali-i., merc., merc-i-r., phos., ph-ac., phyt., rhus-t., sil., sil-mar., sulph.


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  2. ^Mononucleosis — Causes“. eMedicineHealth (12/7/2007). Retrieved on 2008-03-01.
  3. ^ a b Hickie I, Davenport T, Wakefield D, et al (2006[:). “Post-infective and chronic fatigue syndromes precipitated by viral and non-viral pathogens: prospective cohort study”. BMJ 333 (7568): 575. doi:10.1136/bmj.38933.585764.AE. PMID 16950834. 
  4. ^ a b (2006) The Merck manual of diagnosis and therapy, 18th ed., Whitehouse Station (NJ): Merck Research Laboratories. ISBN 0-911910-18-2. 
  5. ^ Candy B, Hotopf M. (2006). “Steroids for symptom control in infectious mononucleosis”. Cochrane Database Sys Rev (4): CD004402. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD004402.pub2. PMID 16856045. 
  6. ^ a b Antibiotic Expert Group. Therapeutic guidelines: Antibiotic. 13th ed. North Melbourne: Therapeutic Guidelines; 2006.
  7. ^Infectious Mononucleosis“. WebMD (January 24, 2006). Retrieved on 2006-07-10.
  8. ^ Torre D, Tambini R (1999). “Acyclovir for treatment of infectious mononucleosis: a meta-analysis”. Scand. J. Infect. Dis. 31 (6): 543–7. PMID 10680982. 
  9. ^ Balfour HH, Hokanson KM, Schacherer RM, et al (2007). “A virologic pilot study of valacyclovir in infectious mononucleosis”. J. Clin. Virol. 39 (1): 16–21. doi:10.1016/j.jcv.2007.02.002. PMID 17369082. 
  10. ^ Simon et al. (March 2003). “The Effect of Valacyclovir and Prednisolone in Reducing Symptoms of EBV Illness In Children: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study.”. International Pediatrics 18 (3): 164–169. 
  11. ^ Balfour HH, Hokanson KM, Schacherer RM, et al (2007). “A virologic pilot study of valacyclovir in infectious mononucleosis”. J. Clin. Virol. 39 (1): 16–21. doi:10.1016/j.jcv.2007.02.002. PMID 17369082. 
  12. ^ Ascherio A, Munger KL (2007). “Environmental risk factors for multiple sclerosis. Part I: the role of infection”. Ann. Neurol. 61 (4): 288–99. doi:10.1002/ana.21117. PMID 17444504.