How To Read EBV Blood Test Results


In order to determine whether a person is suffering from mononucleosis (Mono), the physician orders an EBV blood test. EBV stands for Epstein-Barr virus. This test detects the presence of antibodies (clinically known as heterophile aggluntination antigens) that target EBV.

What is Mono?

Mononucleosis, an infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, is found in mucus and saliva, passed on from person to person through kissing. Another way to contract this infection is through the sharing of spoons, forks, glasses and other food utensils with an infected person. Exposure to an EBV positive person’s cough or sneeze can also infect an otherwise Mono-free individual.

Symptoms of Mono include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Weakness
  • Swollen lymph glands found in the neck and armpits
  • Night sweats
  • Sometimes enlarged liver and/or spleen

How to read EBV blood test results

If your doctor suspects that you have Mono, he will order a Monospot or EBV blood test. Other types of blood tests will be required if the EBV blood test results are unclear. During the course of the growth of the Epstein-Barr virus in the body, antibodies against this virus are produced. Here’s what the results of an EBV blood test may indicate.

  1. Look at the EBV Ab VCA (viral capsid antigen) IgM marker. This is the marker that appears first. A number greater than one is the first sign of an ongoing viral infection or a very recent infection of EBV. If it is negative but the other indicators are positive, it may indicate that you previously contracted mono. This should go away in 4 – 6 weeks.
  2. Look at the EBV VCA (viral capsid antigen) IgG marker. A positive result, one that is greater than 120, indicates that the patient has had the virus for a week. Once you have contracted Mono, a positive result will always appear in all your EBV blood tests indicating that you once contracted the EBV virus before. A negative reading indicates susceptibility to the virus or an infection that is in the process of resolving itself.
  3. Read the marker for EBV NA (nuclear antigen) IgG. This will read positive (above 120) 2 to 4 months from contracting the virus and for the remainder of the patient’s life.
  4. Look at the EBV EA-D (early-D antigen) IgG marker. It will be greater than 120 (positive) if  the virus has been around for a week. In 80% of people with this outcome, the virus will be gone after two weeks.
  5. Read the Heterophile Antibodies results. A positive result appears for a current infection associated with Mono. False negatives are more common in children. False positives are associated with other conditions.

The EBV blood test is used to detect antibodies against the Epstein-Barr virus. It is an important tool for diagnosing mononucleosis. Mono has no cure; the virus simply goes away in time. Unless the patient is immune compromised or if the patient has undergone an organ transplant, there is little possibility of re-infection. EBV blood tests are better read and analyzed by a physician. False negatives as well as false positive tests can occur for patients with other conditions. Doctors rely on other tests in combination with the EBV blood test to clearly diagnose Mono.


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