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Infectious Diseases

Epstein-Barr virus

11/19/2001

Question:

I have very elevated blood levels of the Epstein-Barr virus, but don`t have mono according to my doctor. The reason I was tested was because of overwhelming fatigue...I don`t have any sore throat or swollen gland symptoms. I can`t seem to find any information about this, except articles linking it to AIDS or Non-Hodgkins lymphoma! I`m sure I don`t have AIDS but should I be concerned about or tested for lymphoma? Is it OK to continue with my regular exercise routine? Anything I can do to get well?

Answer:

Infection with Epstein-Barr virus is relatively common in the world, including the US. By the age of 21 somewhere between 70 to 80% of individuals have been infected. Most often, the infection is asymptomatic. The level of antibody titer is not very meaningful and only signifies exposure to the virus. Past literature suggested a causal relationship between Epstein Barr virus and chronic fatigue, but that has not been substantiated. While it is true that lymphoma is associated with Epstein Barr virus this type of lymphoma develops almost exclusively in those who receive powerful drugs that suppress the immune system or whose immune system is depressed from other causes. The decision to see if you have lymphoma should rest with your physician who has all the data.

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Response by:

George S Deepe, Jr, MD George S Deepe, Jr, MD
Professor of Clinical Medicine
Director of Infectious Diseases
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati