New Medical Possibilities

A study completed in December, 2007 suggested that a vaccine designed to target Epstein-Barr virus may prevent the onset of infectious mononucleosis - commonly known as mono or glandular fever. The study was conducted in Belgium and sponsored by a Belgian pharmaceutical company there.

Mono and More

But mono isn't the only way EBV can manifest. It is also associated with numerous other diseases, the most serious of which are lymphomas and other lymphoproliferative diseases in people with compromised immune systems - such as those who have had transplants.

Regardless the frequency of EBV infections and infectious mononucleosis, this study is the first to offer the possibility of prevention through vaccine.

Etienne M. Sokal, MD, PhD, and several colleagues at various Belgian institutions worked together to develop the vaccine which targets glycoprotein 350, a protein which enables the entry of Epstein-Barr virus into immune system cells.

There was an 18-month observation period of individuals participating in the trails during which it was noted that the proportion of symptomatic EBV infections was reduced from 10 percent (9 in 91) in the control group to 2 percent (two in 90) in the vaccinated group. This showed that those who did not receive the vaccine were nearly 5 times more likely to develop infectious mononucleosis.

Larger-Scale Testing May Provide Answers

Dr. Sokal has suggested that the next step should be "large-scale studies on the benefit in healthy subjects and ability to prevent acute EBV infections and post-transplant lymphoproliferative diseases in transplant patients."

He added, "There is currently no possibility to prevent or to treat acute mononucleosis, which has remained so far an unmet medical problem. This vaccine may decrease the socio-economic impact of acute mononucleosis."

The history of the development of a vaccine to address EBV has been slow and fraught with problems. These results provide encouragement that it is possible to prevent infectious mononucleosis.

The study also provides a framework for future trials which would address the prevention of more serious consequences of the Epstein-Barr virus.

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