How do you test for mononucleosis?


Quick Answer

Two tests check for mononucleosis: the monospot, or heterophil, test and the EBV, or Epstein-Barr virus, antibody test. Both tests are used to detect antibodies in the blood that are indicative of the immune system's attempt to stave off an infection, according to WebMD.

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Full Answer

The monospot test, sometimes referred to as the heterophil test, is a diagnostic screening useful in detecting the heterophil antibody formed when the body fights off a mononucleosis infection. The test is simple; a lab technician places a sample of the patient's blood onto a microscope slide, mixes it with specific substances and looks for clumps, or agglutinates, that indicate the presence of heterophil. A positive result typically indicates mono is present. This test is used to detect mono within two to nine weeks of initial infection but is not useful in detecting older cases of mono, states WebMD.

The EBV antibody test is also a blood test; it looks for antibodies to the Epstein-Barr virus, the main cause of mono. When symptoms of infectious mono are present and the monospot test is negative, the treating physician generally orders this test for further confirmation, explains WebMD. Blood is taken from the vein for the EBV antibody test and either a fingertip or vein for the monospot test.

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