Epstein-Barr infection

Description: The Epstein-Barr virus, also called EBV, is an extremely common virus that infects most people at one time or another during their lifetimes. There are several forms of Epstein–Barr virus infection. Infectious mononucleosis, nasopharyngeal carcinoma, and Burkitt’s lymphoma can all be caused by the Epstein–Barr virus.

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It is best known as the cause of infectious mononucleosis (glandular fever). It is also associated with particular forms of cancer, such as Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Burkitt’s lymphoma, nasopharyngeal carcinoma, and conditions associated with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), such as hairy leukoplakia and central nervous system lymphomas. There is evidence that infection with the virus is associated with a higher risk of certain autoimmune diseases, especially dermatomyositis, systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögren’s syndrome, and multiple sclerosis.

Infection with EBV occurs by the oral transfer of saliva and genital secretions.

Most people become infected with EBV and gain adaptive immunity. In the United States, about half of all five-year-old children and 90 to 95 percent of adults have evidence of previous infection. Infants become susceptible to EBV as soon as maternal antibody protection disappears. Many children become infected with EBV, and these infections usually cause no symptoms or are indistinguishable from the other mild, brief illnesses of childhood. In the United States and other developed countries, many people are not infected with EBV in their childhood years. When infection with EBV occurs during adolescence, it causes infectious mononucleosis 35 to 50 percent of the time.

EBV infects B cells of the immune system and epithelial cells. Once the virus’s initial lytic infection is brought under control, EBV latently persists in the individual’s B cells for the rest of the individual’s life.

Symptoms:
Epstein-Barr virus infection generally causes a minor cold-like or flu-like illness, but, in some cases, there may be no symptoms of infection.Initial symptoms of infectious mononucleosis are fever, sore throat, and swollen lymph glands. Sometimes, a swollen spleen or liver involvement may develop. Heart problems or involvement of the central nervous system occurs only rarely, and infectious mononucleosis is almost never fatal. There are no known associations between active EBV infection and problems during pregnancy, such as miscarriages or birth defects. Although the symptoms of infectious mononucleosis usually resolve in 1 or 2 months, EBV remains dormant or latent in a few cells in the throat and blood for the rest of the person’s life. Periodically, the virus can reactivate and is commonly found in the saliva of infected persons. Reactivated and post-latent virus may pass the placental barrier in (also seropositive) pregnant women via macrophages and therefore can infect the fetus. Also re-infection of prior seropositive individuals may occur. In contrast, reactivation in adults usually occurs without symptoms of illness.

EBV also establishes a lifelong dormant infection in some cells of the body’s immune system. A late event in a very few carriers of this virus is the emergence of Burkitt’s lymphoma and nasopharyngeal carcinoma, two rare cancers. EBV appears to play an important role in these malignancies, but is probably not the sole cause of disease.

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Most individuals exposed to people with infectious mononucleosis have previously been infected with EBV and are not at risk for infectious mononucleosis. In addition, transmission of EBV requires intimate contact with the saliva (found in the mouth) of an infected person. Transmission of this virus through the air or blood does not normally occur. The incubation period, or the time from infection to appearance of symptoms, ranges from 4 to 6 weeks. Persons with infectious mononucleosis may be able to spread the infection to others for a period of weeks. However, no special precautions or isolation procedures are recommended, since the virus is also found frequently in the saliva of healthy people. In fact, many healthy people can carry and spread the virus intermittently for life. These people are usually the primary reservoir for person-to-person transmission. For this reason, transmission of the virus is almost impossible to prevent.

The clinical diagnosis of infectious mononucleosis is suggested on the basis of the symptoms of fever, sore throat, swollen lymph glands, and the age of the patient. Usually, laboratory tests are needed for confirmation. Serologic results for persons with infectious mononucleosis include an elevated white blood cell count, an increased percentage of certain atypical white blood cells, and a positive reaction to a “mono spot” test.
Causes:
Epstein–Barr can cause infectious mononucleosis, also known as ‘glandular fever’, ‘Mono‘ and ‘Pfeiffer’s disease’. Infectious mononucleosis is caused when a person is first exposed to the virus during or after adolescence. Though once deemed “The Kissing Disease,” recent research has shown that transmission of EBV not only occurs from exchanging saliva, but also from contact with the airborne virus. It is predominantly found in the developing world, and most children in the developing world are found to have already been infected by around 18 months of age. Infection of children can occur when adults mouth feed or pre-chew food before giving it to the child. EBV antibody tests turn up almost universally positive.

Treatment:
There is no specific treatment for infectious mononucleosis, other than treating the symptoms. No antiviral drugs or vaccines are available. Some physicians have prescribed a 5-day course of steroids to control the swelling of the throat and tonsils. The use of steroids has also been reported to decrease the overall length and severity of illness, but these reports have not been published.

It is important to note that symptoms related to infectious mononucleosis caused by EBV infection seldom last for more than 4 months. When such an illness lasts more than 6 months, it is frequently called chronic EBV infection. However, valid laboratory evidence for continued active EBV infection is seldom found in these patients. The illness should be investigated further to determine if it meets the criteria for chronic fatigue syndrome, or CFS. This process includes ruling out other causes of chronic illness or fatigue.

Prognosis:
There is currently no specific cure for an Epstein-Barr virus infection. Treatment includes measures to help relieve symptoms and keep the body as strong as possible until the disease runs its course. This includes rest, medications to ease body aches and fever, and drinking plenty of fluids. People who are in good health can generally recover from an Epstein-Barr virus infection at home with supportive care, such as rest, fluids and pain relievers.

Prevention:
Treatment of most viral diseases begins with preventing the spread of the disease with basic hygiene measures. However, controlling the spread of the Epstein-Barr virus is extremely difficult because it is so common and because it is possible to spread the Epstein-Barr virus even when a person does not appear sick. Many healthy people who have had an Epstein-Barr virus infection continue to carry the virus in their saliva, which means they can spread it to others throughout their lifetimes. However, avoiding contact with another person’s saliva by not sharing drinking glasses or toothbrushes is still a good general disease prevention measure.

Regular exercise with healthy food habits and healthy life style is the best way of prevention.

Research:
As a relatively complex virus, EBV is not yet fully understood. Laboratories around the world continue to study the virus and develop new ways to treat the diseases it causes. One popular way of studying EBV in vitro is to use bacterial artificial chromosomes.[33] Epstein–Barr virus and its sister virus KSHV can be maintained and manipulated in the laboratory in continual latency. Although many viruses are assumed to have this property during infection of their natural host, they do not have an easily managed system for studying this part of the viral lifecycle. Genomic studies of EBV have been able to explore lytic reactivation and regulation of the latent viral episome.

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.
Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epstein%E2%80%93Barr_virus
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epstein–Barr_virus_infection
http://www.healthgrades.com/conditions/epstein-barr-virus

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