What is Epstein-Barr Virus?

Fairly recently in medical history, the Epstein-Barr virus was found to be the root cause of mononucleosis (known commonly as, "mono"). Epstein-Barr was found to be the cause of the disease after a correlation was made between the presence of the Epstein-Barr antigens and people who had been recently diagnosed with mononucleosis.

Morphologically speaking, the Epstein-Barr virus ("EBV") is not unlike the typical herpes virus. Like herpes, EBV's nucleocapsid has icosahedral symmetry. Also like herpes, nucleoid core of the virus contains a double stranded linear DNA genome.

How Does EBV Infect Humans?

The EBV virion will try and choose to infect human B lymphocytes. After an incubation period of about two to seven weeks, people developing mononucleosis can have as many as 20% of their circulating B lymphocytes infected with EBV.

After the incubation period, symptoms of mononucleosis begin to develop (see: mononucleosis). At this point, the body develops antigens to the virus and there is a brisk immune response composed of killer cells and cytotoxic T cells. The battle rages on for an average of four weeks after the onset of symptoms.

It has been found that around 95% of Americans have been infected with EBV at some point in their lifetimes as detected by the presence of EBV antigens.

I Have Heard That EBV Causes Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Is That True?

For several reasons, it was once believed that the EBV was the underlying cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome ("CFS"). However, a study in 1991 by Kroenke cast serious doubt on this possibility.

It is now generally more or less understood that higher counts of EBV occur within CFS sufferers because their immune system may be weaker with CFS. This notion is still being hotly debated, however it is noted by supporters of this argument that other virii also occur in higher than normal counts within a CFS patient.

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