Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), or human herpesvirus 4, is a gammaherpesvirus that infects more than 95% of the world's population. The most common manifestation of primary infection with this organism is acute infectious mononucleosis, a self-limited clinical syndrome that most frequently affects adolescents and young adults. Classic symptoms include sore throat, fever, and lymphadenopathy. Infection with Epstein-Barr virus in younger children is usually asymptomatic or mild.
However, Epstein-Barr virus is also a human tumor virus, the first virus associated with human malignancy. Infection with Epstein-Barr virus is associated with lymphoproliferative disorders. Even though Epstein-Barr virus isn't a household name, you've probably been infected without knowing it. Lots of people carry the virus but don't get sick. Epstein-Barr virus is present in oropharyngeal secretions and is most commonly transmitted through saliva. After initial inoculation, the virus replicates in nasopharyngeal epithelial cells. Cell lysis is associated with a release of virions, with viral spread to contiguous structures, including salivary glands and oropharyngeal lymphoid tissues.
EBV can also spread through blood and semen during sexual contact, blood transfusions, and organ transplantations. EBV can be spread by using objects, such as a toothbrush or drinking glass, which an infected person recently used. The virus probably survives on an object at least as long as the object remains moist. There is no evidence that disinfecting the objects will prevent EBV from spreading. Epstein-Barr virus is more frequently acquired in childhood in underdeveloped nations, and, therefore, the syndrome of acute infectious mononucleosis is unusual in these nations. There is no specific treatment for infectious mononucleosis, other than treating the symptoms.
In severe cases, steroids such as Corticosteroids may be used to control the swelling of the throat and tonsils. Currently, there are no antiviral drugs or vaccines available. 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.
Peter S. Nyasulu
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