The Kissing Disease, What's That?


    Known most commonly as the "kissing disease" or Mono, Infectious Mononucleosis is the second most common viral infection to the flu and cold viruses.  Mono is also known as EBV virus, glandular fever and human herpesvirus 4. The cause of the "kissing disease" is a relatively large and complex virus known as the Epstein-Barr virus, or human herpesvirus 4.  Because this virus is common and infects many people, it has been studied extensively.


    Anyone of any age can get Mono, but about seventy to eighty percent of the cases documented occur in individuals from fifteen to thirty years of age.  There seems to be no significance set on gender, but the virus does infect more men than women.  College aged individuals are at the highest risk of coming down with Mono, which can severely damage an entire year of schooling for individuals who become infected.  While there is no Infectious Mononucleosis "season" so to speak, colleges report high numbers of Mono infected students during the fall and spring months.  Epidemics are extremely rare as the virus is not overly contagious.


    The "kissing disease" only infects white blood cells, lymphatic cells, and salivary gland cells.  For this reason, the virus reproduces in areas that contain saliva.  The "kissing disease" got its name because the saliva of an infected individual can transmit the virus to other individuals by kissing, or sharing drinking glasses or eating utensils. 

    Like all herpesviruses, a person infected with Infectious Mononucleosis will have the EB virus in their body for life.  After symptoms leave an individual they may still be infectious and can spread the disease to another person.  This type of transmission makes it difficult to trace and it is unknown how long a person is contagious after a case of the infection.  Another reason Mono can be tricky to trace is because it can take two to seven weeks for an individual to show symptoms after they've contracted the virus.  However, as stated above, even during a full blown infection the virus does not spread easily.


    The genome of EBV is relatively complex for a virus.  It can support up to 235 kbp DNA, or 235 kilo-base pairs (kilo-base=1,000 nucleotides).  The herpesviruses, which contains the Epstein-Barr virus, can contain up to thirty five virion proteins which can code for enzymes used in metabolism of nucleic acids and DNA production.  The genetic material contained inside the core of the virus consists of linear, double stranded DNA.


    To learn more about structures in the virus click here!