Mononucleosis tests can detect antibodies directed to viruses that cause mononucleosis. Usually, a doctor recommends these tests when someone has symptoms of the disease.

People often refer to mononucleosis as mono or the “kissing disease,” as the virus that causes it is transmitted through saliva or other body fluids. While Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is responsible for most cases, other viruses can also lead to mono.

Mononucleosis tests can diagnose infectious mononucleosis, guide treatment decisions, and safeguard public health.

In this article, we look at the various types of mononucleosis tests, when an individual might need one, the risks, and what the results mean.

A silhouette of a kissing couple -2.Share on Pinterest
DekiArt/Getty Images

Mononucleosis tests are diagnostic tools that can detect the presence of specific antibodies associated with EBV.

Antibodies are proteins that the immune system produces to protect the body.

The two main types of tests used to diagnose mono include:

  1. Monospot test: This is a rapid test that detects a specific antibody the body produces in response to EBV infection. Sometimes it’s called a heterophile antibody test.
  2. EBV antibody test: This test detects various antibodies that the immune system produces to fight EBV. There are different types of EBV antibodies that provide insights into the stage of infection.

EBV antibody tests are useful in identifying the cause of illness in people who do not have a typical case of infectious mononucleosis or have other illnesses that EBV infection can cause.

Learn more about mononucleosis.

Individuals may require a mononucleosis test if they experience symptoms of mono, such as:

In addition to these classic symptoms, some children may also experience any of the following signs and symptoms:

Since these symptoms can mimic those of other illnesses — like strep throat or the flu — accurate diagnosis is essential for appropriate treatment.

No special preparation is necessary for this test.

If there are any concerns about having the test, please speak with a healthcare professional prior to the test.

During a mononucleosis test, a healthcare professional will collect a blood sample, either by pricking the fingertip or drawing blood from a vein in the arm using a needle. Expect to feel a pinch or sting as blood is collected in a vial.

The whole process is usually over within 5–10 minutes.

Mononucleosis tests — including the mono spot test and antibody tests — are generally safe and pose minimal risks to those receiving them.

Some individuals may experience mild discomfort or bruising at the site where blood is drawn, but this generally goes away quickly.

Serious complications are rare.

Details are below.

Monospot tests

Results are usually available within an hour.

A positive result shows that heterophil antibodies are present and that a person has mono. In this case, a doctor may order the EBV test.

A negative test shows that no antibodies to the infection are present. Still, if a person or child has symptoms, the doctor will likely order the EBV test.

EBV test

Results may take a few days to come.

A negative result shows that no EBV antibodies were detected and that a person does not have mono. It’s likely another condition is causing mono-like symptoms.

A positive result indicates the presence of antibodies associated with EBV infection. It’s likely EBV has led to infection or mono.

There is no specific treatment for mononucleosis. Antibiotics are not effective against viral infections. However, individuals can take certain steps to help relieve symptoms, including:

In more severe diagnoses, medical intervention is necessary. Getting medical assistance is even more important if the person experiences liver or spleen enlargement or secondary infections.

Mononucleosis tests include the mono spot test and antibody tests. These tests are essential tools for diagnosing mononucleosis and detecting the Epstein-Barr virus infection (EBV).

Early detection enables prompt treatment and supportive care, reduces the risk of complications, and promotes a faster recovery.

If an individual suspects they may have mono or are experiencing symptoms of the illness, it’s important that they talk with a healthcare professional about getting a mononucleosis test.