Infectious mononucleosis

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Mononucleosis is a term for a biological anomaly caused by an increasing number of monocytes, a variety of white blood cells. This anomaly is mainly encountered in infectious mononucleosis, a benign infectious disease caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, which belongs to the herpes family. Infectious mononucleosis is spread through saliva, and the virus is not responsible for any clinical signs for the first 4-6 weeks. It can only be contracted once during a lifetime, during which time the body develops defenses against the virus without eradicating it from the body.


Symptoms of infectious mononucleosis are:
  • Fever;
  • extreme fatigue;
  • inflammation of the tonsils with white deposits. The uvula is however not affected;
  • a rash affecting the soft palate;
  • swollen lymph nodes in the cervical region;
  • an increase in the size of the spleen;

The onset is insidious, since it is asymptomatic.


The diagnosis of infectious mononucleosis is done with a blood test, where we can observe an increase in the number of lymphocytes and monocytes. A quick test, called an IM-test is possible, but of uncertain reliability. In case of doubt, a serological blood test showing the virus-specific antibodies is sometimes realized.


There is no specific treatment for infectious mononucleosis. Though the signs of the disease may disappear by themselves after a few weeks, the recovery period is long with persistent fatigue. The doctor prescribes analgesics, such as aspirin and paracetamol. The patient will also need lots of rest and to be well hydrated.


There is no way to prevent infectious mononucleosis. Nevertheless, it is possible to prevent contagion by avoiding kissing people with infectious mononucleosis, or sharing utensils with them. A usual hygiene routine with a proper washing of hands is essential.