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Mononucleosis Blood Test

Last updated July 25, 2019

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

Image of a Clinical Pathology Department medical technologist demonstrating testing blood serum for mononucleosis.

What are the other Names for this Test? (Equivalent Terms)

  • Heterophile Antibody Titer Blood Test
  • Mononuclear Heterophile Blood Test
  • Monospot Blood Test

What is Mononucleosis Blood Test? (Background Information)

  • Infectious mononucleosis (or “mono”) is a contagious disease caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). EBV also causes various cancers, immune disorders, and mild fever-like symptoms. It is a member of the herpes virus family and is one of the most prevalent pathogens in the world
  • Infection by the virus during adolescence is likely to cause infectious mononucleosis. The condition is easily transmissible through body fluid transfer. It is most commonly spread through saliva, which includes kissing, sharing of items/utensils, etc. Children and young adults are most affected by infectious mononucleosis, although 90% of adults acquire immunity against it by the age of 40 years
  • Once infected, the plasma cells of the immune system produce antibodies that target the Epstein-Barr virus. Antibodies are proteins that recognize foreign objects, such as EBV, and help eliminate them from the body
  • The presence of antibodies against Epstein-Barr virus in the blood stream is indicative of a prior exposure to EBV. This is diagnostic of a current or past infection
  • The Mononucleosis Blood Test is a test to detect antibodies against EBV in blood. It is used to diagnose an infection with EBV, which could be causing mononucleosis

What are the Clinical Indications for performing the Mononucleosis Blood Test?

Following are the clinical indications for performing a Mononucleosis Blood Test:

  • Fever, fatigue
  • Headache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Enlarged spleen, enlarged liver
  • Abdominal pain
  • Body rashes

How is the Specimen Collected for Mononucleosis Blood Test?

Following is the specimen collection process for Mononucleosis Blood Test:

Sample required: Blood

Process: Insertion of a needle into an arm vein.

Preparation required: No special preparation is needed prior to the test.

What is the Significance of the Mononucleosis Blood Test Result?

The significance of Mononucleosis Blood Test is explained:

  • A positive test result indicates an infection with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and possible mononucleosis
  • A negative test result may indicate:
    • Sufficient time has not passed to allow for the production of detectable levels of anti-EBV antibodies
    • There may be an infection by a similar virus
    • The individual is incapable of producing anti-EBV antibodies and may be too young

The laboratory test results are NOT to be interpreted as results of a "stand-alone" test. The test results have to be interpreted after correlating with suitable clinical findings and additional supplemental tests/information. Your healthcare providers will explain the meaning of your tests results, based on the overall clinical scenario.

Additional and Relevant Useful Information:

  • Infectious mononucleosis is a self-limiting disease. In other words, it resolves without the need for significant medical intervention. However, the symptoms may be alleviated through rest, consumption of fluids, and proper medications

Certain medications that you may be currently taking may influence the outcome of the test. Hence, it is important to inform your healthcare provider, the complete list of medications (including any herbal supplements) you are currently taking. This will help the healthcare provider interpret your test results more accurately and avoid unnecessary chances of a misdiagnosis.

References and Information Sources used for the Article:

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: June 16, 2014
Last updated: July 25, 2019