Health In Focus


  • Severity and onset of acute infectious mononucleosis or kissing disease associated with T -cell receptors that trigger an immune response against Epstein - Barr virus (EBV) and Influenza A virus.
  • People with severe cases of mono have more amount of cross-reactive T-cells that react to both Influenza A and EBV.
  • People with a previous history of flu are more likely to have severe cases of mono if infected with EBV.

A new study demonstrates how the T -cells of the immune system determine the severity of infections and trigger an immune response. The onset and severity of acute infectious mononucleosis (AIM) are related to the number of cross reactive T -cells of the immune system that attack Epstein - Barr virus (EBV) and influenza A virus. AIM is commonly called mono or kissing disease caused by EBV which is transmitted through saliva. The study is the first of its kind to discuss the effect of immune cell receptors on infection and immune response.

Mononucleosis (The Kissing Disease)

The name came about as mononucleosis commonly known as mono is majorly transmitted from one person to the other through saliva. Kissing is the most predominant way of saliva transmission but can also include exposure to cough and sneeze, sharing food and utensils etc. A vast majority of mono affected individuals are adolescents.

Not everyone infected with EBV develops mono

A persons T cell memory and its receptors determine if the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) caused mono becomes infectious or not. Each person's immune system has a memory of the microbes or pathogens that have previously attacked the body and this memory helps T cells attack subsequent infections faster.
T-cell Memory and Receptors Determine Severity of Mononucleosis (Kissing Disease)

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that almost 95 percent of the world population is infected with EBV by the time they reach 30. However, infected children rarely suffer from associated symptoms of mono including fever and fatigue and so do some adults. This might be due to their immune history. They don't have the specific receptors in those cross-reactive memory T cells that trigger a severe immune response, says pathologist and study leader Liisa Selin at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester.

Study Overview:

Blood samples were collected from college students for over a decade for the study. 32 college students were diagnosed with mono and they were divided into two groups based on disease severity. Samples were also collected from 17 health controls who tested positive for EBV.

People with severe mono had 25 times more T-cells per volume of blood that reacted to both Influenza A and EBV than the healthy controls. People with mild mono had 10 times more of the cross-reactive T-cells than the healthy controls who had tested positive for EBV.

Other Key findings

  • Previous flu infection worsens mononucleosis or kissing disease
  • Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) is associated with many autoimmune diseases.
  • Having infectious mono may increase a person's risk of developing multiple sclerosis.
  • Getting vaccinated for flu may decrease the likelihood of developing severe mono after EBV infection.

References :
  1. Mononucleosis - (
Source: Medindia

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