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Epstein-Barr virus test

Definition

Epstein-Barr virus test is a blood test to detect antibodies to the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) antigens.

See also: Monospot test

Alternative Names

EBV antibody test; Monospot

How the Test is Performed

A blood sample is needed. For information on how this is done, see: Venipuncture

The sample is sent to a lab, where a lab specialist looks for antibodies to the Epstein-Barr virus. In the first stages of an illness, little antibody may be detected. For this reason, serology tests are often repeated in 10 days to 2 or more weeks.

How to Prepare for the Test

There is no special preparation for the test.

How the Test will Feel

When the needle is inserted to draw blood, you may feel moderate pain, or only a prick or stinging sensation. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.

Why the Test is Performed

The test is done to detect an infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). The EBV antibody test will detect not only a recent infection, but also one that occurred in the past. It can be used to tell the difference between a recent or previous infection.

Normal Results

A normal result means no antibodies to EBV were seen in your blood sample. This result means you have never been infected with EBV.

Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Some labs use different measurements or test different samples. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.

What Abnormal Results Mean

A positive result means there are antibodies to EBV in the person's blood, indicating a current or prior infection with EBV.

Risks

There is very little risk involved with having your blood taken. Veins and arteries vary in size from one patient to another and from one side of the body to the other. Taking blood from some people may be more difficult than from others.

Other risks associated with having blood drawn are slight but may include:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Fainting or feeling light-headed
  • Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
  • Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)

References

Johannsen EC, Kaye KM. Epstein-Barr virus (infectious mononucleosis, Epstein-Barr virus–associated malignant diseases, and other diseases). In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009:chap 139.


Review Date: 9/1/2013
Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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