Mono Through The Ages

As with any health issue, it's always interesting to know the origin and development of the virus called mononucleosis or Epstein-Barr.

This virus was first described in the late 19th century as acute glandular fever. It was an illness that struck mostly adolescents and young adults and was characterized by lymphadenopathy, fever, hepatosplenomegaly, malaise, and stomach pains.

Mono Gets a Name

In 1920, mono first got its name. Researcher Sprunt and his associates gave the name infectious mononucleosis to cases that showed acute leukemia that seemed to resolve on its own with blastlike cells in the blood.

They published their findings in the Johns Hopkins Medical Bulletin in a paper that was entitled "Mononuclear leukocytosis in reaction to acute infection (infectious mononucleosis)".

In 1923, another researcher, Downey, described the lymphocyte morphology. Then, in 1932, two researchers who are credited with finding mono made a great discovery.

Paul and Bunnell discovered that serum from patients with symptoms showed heterophile antibodies. This allowed doctors and researchers to diagnose mono more accurately and to understand who had infectious mononucleosis and who was actually exhibiting other illnesses.

More Searching

Researchers continued, for many years, to search for the etiologic agent of mono. They were not successful because they didn't realize that many people who get mono are actually asymptomatic.

In addition, they didn't realize that most adults are seropositive. Finally, in 1964, Epstein found virus particles in a Burkill lymphoma cell line and he described his findings, explaining that this was the first human tumor virus.

In 1968, Henle made the connection between, and reported on, the relationship between acute infectious mono and the Epstein-Barr virus. As a result of his work, a large study was done at Yale University with students to establish that Epstein-Barr was actually the etiologic agent of infectious mononucleosis.

Today's Understanding

From their research and findings, we understand a great deal today about the Epstein-Barr virus and about infectious mononucleosis.

This virus most frequently affects adolescents and young adults. It includes a number of symptoms, although not everyone shows signs of symptoms when they have the virus.

Possible symptoms include sore throat, fever, lymphadenopathy, extreme exhaustion and more. Epstein-Barr is also a human tumor virus, and it is the first virus associated with human malignancy. Especially in people with compromised immune systems, this can be a real issue.

As with any virus or medical breakthrough, doctors and researchers are constantly trying to learn more about mono and about Epstein-Barr as they find ways to help patients with their symptoms and with their understanding of the virus itself.


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