The viral infection infectious mononucleosis is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a member of the herpes virus family(1). As EBV is extremely widespread, the body is often exposed to it in childhood and adolescence but remains symptom-free, though infection triggers the production of protective antibodies.
But in the absence of such infection at a young age, the body has no immunity. Exposure to the virus later in life thus causes infectious mononucleosis, or ‘mono’, key symptoms of which include high fever, intense fatigue, loss of appetite, muscle pain, and headaches. Mono can also cause a particularly painful sore throat (2).
Transmitted by saliva and coughing, infectious mononucleosis is often referred to as the ‘kissing disease’ (3).
We know that many illnesses, including mononucleosis, frequently lead to post-infection syndromes (4-5). Since the pandemic, a number of scientists have therefore been looking at a potential link connecting interactions between Covid and various infections, and long Covid.
In a study published in the journal Pathogens in June 2021 (6), a group of researchers set out to test a hypothesis concerning long Covid. They theorised that the inflammatory response to infection with Covid-19 might provoke a reactivation of the Epstein-Barr virus, present in 90% of adults.
A reactivation such as this would explain the symptoms experienced by 1 in 3 patients after recovery from initial COVID-19 infection: fatigue, skin rashes, brain fog, etc.
Having indeed identified a relationship between SARS-CoV-2 and EBV reactivation, the study’s authors recommend the systematic testing of newly-positive Covid patients for evidence of EBC reactivation so that mononucleosis symptoms can be treated as early as possible and thus inhibit the development of long Covid and its impact on patients.
Since infectious mononucleosis is a viral infection, there are unfortunately no effective treatments (the few antivirals that do exist are not generally recommended) (7).
Paracetamol and anti-inflammatories are, however, often prescribed for symptom relief, especially fever and headaches. Rest and proper hydration are also recommended.
Whatever the circumstances, if you suspect you have contracted infectious mononucleosis, arrange to see your doctor for a blood test - the only way to obtain a confirmed diagnosis.
While no miracle cure exists for infectious mononucleosis, there are natural treatments that can help relieve certain symptoms and also support your immunity.
To combat the intense fatigue associated with mono, the ever-essential vitamin C is likely to prove invaluable, particularly in winter. For energy metabolism, the immune system, psychological function, reducing fatigue, etc.: vitamin C is your ‘go-to’ health ally. Doctors often recommend it to help their patients get back on their feet.
Similarly, vitamin D supports healthy immune system function, and supplementation is practically essential, especially in winter (8).
Supplementing with magnesium, which helps to reduce fatigue and supports normal nervous system and psychological function, has also proved invaluable in cases of overwhelming fatigue. Remember too that magnesium deficiency is particularly widespread.
Last but not least, Ayurvedic medicine has provided us a very useful adaptogen plant: ginseng. Helping to reduce fatigue, maintain vitality, and support both the immune system as well as cerebral performance and reactivity, the root of this medicinal plant offers solutions for multiple symptoms (9).
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