History Of Mononucleosis

Have you ever wondered about the history of mononucleosis? If you have suffered from this common viral illness, you may know its signs and symptoms all too well. You may not, however, know how modern day infectious mononucleosis was discovered, how the illness presented itself throughout history or how an understanding of the illness has increased through research. 

Have you heard of glandular fever? In the early 1800s, long before Infectious mononucleosis or the Epstein-Barr virus appeared in medical journals, doctors accepted the existence of a specific illness characterized by fever, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes and fatigue. This illness, which we know today as mononucleosis, was originally termed “glandular fever” or “Drusenfieber” in 1889 by German physicians.

Early twenty century research led to yet another new term for “glandular fever.” In 1920, the characteristics and clinical cause of glandular fever, or infectious mononucleosis as we now know it, were first described by Dr. Evans and Dr. Sprunt in a Johns Hopkins Medical Bulletin. In the research paper entitled, "Mononuclear leukocytosis in reaction to acute infection (infectious mononucleosis)”, Sprunt and Evans determined that glandular fever was actually the result of an infection affecting the bodies mononuclear leukocytes, creating a new name for the condition based on its attack sites within the human body.

The Epstein-Barr virus was later named as the cause of infectious mononucleosis. In the mid-1960s, researchers discovered a connection between the clinical signs and symptoms of Infectious mononucleosis and the presence of the Epstein-Barr virus. After nearly a century, the cause of the long-accepted illness was identified, leading to better techniques of diagnosis. 

The history of mononucleosis is still being written by medical science. Researchers continue to disprove myths and learn of possible connections between mononucleosis and Epstein-Barr to other illnesses. Many mono sufferers were once told that exhibiting the illness once led to immunity—research has shown that this is not always the case. Additional research into newly identified medical conditions, such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, has scientists exploring a possible connection to Epstein-Barr and the development of related illnesses later in life.

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