What is a Monospot Heterophile antibody?

The Monospot Heterophile antibody test detects heterophile antibodies (proteins in the blood) that are produced by the immune system in response to an EBV infection (=Epstein-Barr virus).

What is Infectious mononucleosis?

It is also called mono and is an infection often caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).

Epstein-Barr virus is very common and very contagious. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most people in the United States are infected by EBV at some point in their lives.

The virus is present in the saliva of an infected person and is rapidly spread from person to person through close contact (i.e. kissing, sharing cups, etc).

Symptoms of mono:

Monospot Heterophile antibody Infectious Mononucleosis

  • Mono can affect anyone at any age, but its prevalence is highest in populations of young people, such as students in high schools or colleges, or in the military.
  • Infectious mononucleosis is characterized by a particular set of symptoms that most often affects adolescents.
  • Mono is usually a self-limiting condition; the symptoms resolve without any specific treatment.
  • Symptoms usually start around 4 weeks after the infection and can last for several weeks, such as:
    • Fever
    • Sore throat
    • Swollen glands
    • Fatigue (may last for several months)

Infected people may also have:

  • An enlarged spleen
  • An enlarged liver

Accuracy of the test:

The mono test is 71% to 90% accurate and may be used as an initial test for diagnosing infectious mononucleosis. However, the test does have a 25% false-negative rate due to the fact that some people infected with EBV do not produce the heterophile antibodies that the mono test is designed to detect. If a mono test is negative and suspicion it still high, then a test specific for EBV antibodies is usually performed.

Mono is also characterized by a high white blood cell (WBC) count and the presence of atypical white blood cells (usually reported as reactive lymphocytes).



The information on is NOT intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice.

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