Mononucleosis Introduction

Infectious Mononucleosis is a disease that is caused predominantly by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) which is in the herpes virus family of viruses. The initial Epstein-Barr infection occurs in the nasopharynx (throat/nose) and then spreads to white blood cells. Once infection occurs with the Epstein-Barr virus, the virus will reside in the human host and is periodically shed from the nasal and throat secretions. There is some conjecture that EBV infection might be associated with the development of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a syndrome with symptoms of fatigue, cognitive decline, and occasional low-grade fever.

Mononucleosis Symptoms

There are four main symptoms that are involved in Mononucleosis:

  • Fatigue: usually the first symptom, and precedes the onset of fever. Is most pronounced in the first few weeks after initial onset of symptoms
  • Fever: occurring in the late afternoon and early evening, temperatures can sore in some individuals to an approximated 103 degrees F
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen lymph nodes: usually a pronounced swelling after several days

Even though there is a distinctive set of symptoms associated with Mononucleosis, it is important to note that not all cases will present in exactly that way. In about 50% of cases of Mononucleosis, swelling of the Spleen occurs and care must be taken to not lift heavy objects or engage in contact sports, as these activities could lead to splenic rupture; which is a categorized medical emergency. [1, 2]

Mononucleosis Statistics

In most cases EBV infection is sub clinical, meaning there are no symptoms. In fact, most children, about 50%, have had primary EBV infection by the age of five. In some studies, it is estimated that up to 90% of EBV infections are sub clinical. [3]

Mononucleosis Treatment

Treatment of Mononucleosis is largely palliative as the illness tends to resolve on its own. Often, Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) are used to treat the soreness that is associated with Mononucleosis, aspirin and related medications should be avoided in anyone under 25 with a fever, as this can lead to the development of a serious condition called Reye’s Syndrome. In patients with respiratory problems it may be necessary to utilize corticosteroids if the complications of Mononucleosis threaten respiratory compromise. [4, 5]

Supplements helpful for Mononucleosis

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an essential vitamin for humans. Vitamin C plays a key role in the function of the immune system. A deficiency of this vitamin can impair the ability of the body to fight off infection. Vitamin C has been shown to increase the resistance, as well as assist in the healing process, of several viral diseases and seems to have the effect of inactivating the viral particles. It is equally apparent that it is necessary for Vitamin C to be taken to bowel tolerance to have the most therapeutic effect. One’s bowel tolerance for Vitamin C actually increases when persons are presented with an active illness. [6, 7, 8]

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is one of the fat soluble vitamins and is actually composed of a related group of compounds. Vitamin A is a nutrient, critical for Embryonic development, immune function, vision, and may also have an anticancer role, though its mechanism is unclear. It has been observed that in children with low Vitamin A status exhibit a higher rate of respiratory infections as well as increased mortality from infections. High doses of Vitamin A have also been used for treating viral infections in both children and adults. Care must be taken when higher doses of Vitamin A are ingested. Hypervitaminosis A is a possible complication and is a serious condition, therefore doses must be limited to only a few days duration. [9, 10, 11]


Selenium is a mineral that is essential to the overall health of humans, as it functions in a variety of systems in the body, most notably, the immune system. Selenium deficiency is associated with decreases in immune function. Not only does Selenium supplementation prevent decreases in immune function, it also increases the activity of white blood cells that help to fight off viral infections. [12, 13]


Zinc is an essential nutrient that has a key role in numerous physiological functions, including the immune system. Zinc may promote the destruction of foreign bacteria, and help to scavenge free radicals. Zinc deficiency can result in the dysfunction of the T cells of the immune system. Zinc also assists the Thymus gland in its function of stimulating and coordinating the immune system. Zinc may also directly inhibit the growth of viruses. [14, 15]


[1] Beers and Berkow, The Merck Manual (Whitehouse NJ: Merck Research Laboratories, 1999), 2336-39.

[2] Ebell MH. Epstein-Barr virus infectious mononucleosis. J Gen Virol. 1994 Feb;75 ( Pt 2):353-61.

[3] Beers and Berkow, The Merck Manual (Whitehouse NJ: Merck Research Laboratories, 1999), 2336-39.

[4] Beers and Berkow, The Merck Manual (Whitehouse NJ: Merck Research Laboratories, 1999), 2336-39.

[5] Ebell MH. Epstein-Barr virus infectious mononucleosis. J Gen Virol. 1994 Feb;75 ( Pt 2):353-61.

[6] Murata A. Virucidal activity of vitamin C for prevention and treatment of viral diseases. In Proc First Int Congr IAMS, Takezi Hasegawa (ed.), Science Counsel of Japan, 1975.

[7] Gaby A, Nutritional Therapy in Medical Practice, self published, 2001

[8] Murray and Pizzorno, Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine (Roseville CA: Prima Health, 1998), 145-161.

[9] Crampton CW. Vitamin aid in the treatement of colds. NY State J Med 1944;44:162-166.

[10] Bloem MW, et al. Mild vitamin A deficiency and risk of respiratory tract diseases and diarrhea in preschool and school children in northeastern Thailand. Am J Epidemiol 1990;131:332-339.

[11] Glasziou PP, et al. Vitamin A supplementation in infectious diseases: a meta-analysis. Br Med J 1993;306:366-370.

[12] Roy M, Kiremidjian-Schumacher L, Wishe HI, Cohen MW, Stotzky G. Supplementation with selenium and human immune cell functions. I. Effect on lymphocyte proliferation and interleukin 2 receptor expression. Biol Trace Elem Res. 1994 Apr-May;41(1-2):103-14.

[13]Kiremidjian-Schumacher L, Roy M, Wishe HI, Cohen MW, Stotzky G. Supplementation with selenium and human immune cell functions. II. Effect on cytotoxic lymphocytes and natural killer cells. Biol Trace Elem Res. 1994 Apr-May;41(1-2):115-27.

[14] M. Gerswin, R. Beach, and L. Hurley, “Trace Metals, Aging, and Immunity,” J Am Ger Soc 31 (1983):374-8.

[15] J.W. Hadden, “The Treatment of Zinc Deficiency Is an Immunotherapy,” Int J Immunopharmac 17 (1995) : 697-701.


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