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Epstein-Barr virus ( EBV) Early Antigen Antibody

This test is also known as;

  • EBV Test
  • EBV Early Antigen


What is an Epstein Bar Virus EBV Test?


Epstein Bar Virus EBV, also known as human herpesvirus 4, is a gamma herpes virus that infects only humans. The blood test for Epstein Bar Virus EBV detects antibodies, which is the cause of infectious mononucleosis. Laboratory testing for Epstein Bar Virus EBV can help distinguish if you are susceptible to the infection or have a recent or past infection.


Following are the EBV-associated antigens a laboratory technologist can test for:


  • Viral capsid antigen (VCA)


  • Anti-VCA IgM appears early in blood in EBV infection and disappears within 4-6 weeks.
  • Anti-VCA IgG appears in acute infection of EBV. It peaks at 2-4 weeks after onset and declines after that. It stays in the blood for the rest of a person’s life.


  • Early Antigen (EA)


Anti-EA appears in the acute phase of infection and falls to undetectable levels after 3-6 months. It is a sign of active infection in many people. However, 20% of healthy people have had antibodies against EA for years.


  • EBV nuclear antigen (EBNA)


Antibody to EBNA is not seen in the acute phase of EBV infection and slowly appears 2-4 months after the onset of symptoms and persists for the rest of your life.


  • Monospot test


This test is not generally recommended because the antibodies detected by the Monospot test can be caused by conditions other than infectious mononucleosis. Studies have shown that the monospot test shows false positive and negative results.


What is the test used for?


The Epstein-Bar virus is highly contagious and spreads through saliva and body fluids. If a person contracts a virus once, it remains in the body forever and can reactivate whenever a person’s immunity gets compromised.


To test the presence of the Epstein-Bar virus in the body, the Epstein Bar Virus EBV Antibody-IgM- IgG Test is generally done. Depending on the type of tests available, we can detect if the viral infection is acute or chronic.


Why and when do you need Epstein Bar Virus EBV Test?


Your doctor may order the test if you appear with any mononucleosis signs and symptoms. Symptoms typically last 1 – 4 weeks and can last up to 3 – 4 months.


The symptoms include:


  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Spleen enlargement
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Skin rash
  • Stiff neck.


In some cases, it also swells the liver and spleen.



Mononucleosis is most common in teens and young adults between the age of 15 and 25. Before prescribing this test, your doctor may consider your age and correlate it clinically.


Moreover, symptoms of the Epstein-Bar virus are similar to many other diseases. Because of the similarity and ambiguity of symptoms, doctors suggest an EBV test to see if a person has a past or current EBV infection.


What kind of sample is required for the test?


EBV is a blood test. Blood is drawn from one of your veins in the arm or at the back of your hand. The procedure to draw blood involves the following steps:


  • The tourniquet is tied a few inches above the puncture site to locate the vein
  • The vein is palpated and felt
  • The site is cleaned with an antiseptic, most probable alcohol
  • A needle is gently inserted, and a vein is punctured
  • The required amount of blood is collected in a vial or attached tube.
  • A tourniquet is removed, and the puncture site is secured with the bandage
  • The blood sample is sent to the lab to run the tests.


In an early stage, very few antibodies are found in the blood. Therefore, you must repeat the blood test after 10 – 14 days.


Do you need to prepare for the test?


No test preparations like fasting or quitting specific medications are needed. The blood test results don’t alter with any medication or food item.


Are there any risks to this test?


EBV is a blood test, and with any blood test, there is a slight risk of bruising, bleeding, or infection if the skin barrier is broken. You may feel a sharp prick when the needle is inserted. If you have a needle phobia, talk to the laboratory manager about it so they take preventive measures.

Some people feel light-headed or faint while drawing a blood sample. This should also be addressed before giving the sample.


What do the test results mean?


A normal test result shows no EBV antibodies in the blood sample. This indicates that your body has never been exposed to EBV and doesn’t have mononucleosis. If you show similar symptoms, you might have some other illness. A typical test result doesn’t mean you cannot get an infection in the future.


The abnormal tests show the detected EBV antibodies. This indicates that you’ve been infected with the EBV virus in the past. Your doctor can tell you the difference between past and current infection depending upon the presence or absence of antibodies that fight specific antigens.


The three antibodies to viral capsid antigen (VCA) are; (VCA) IgG, (VCA) IgM, and Epstein-Bar nuclear antigen (EBNA). The presence of these antibodies in the blood indicates how old the infection is.


  • The presence of (VCA) IgG antibodies indicates the infection has occurred recently in the past.
  • The presence of (VCA) IgM antibodies and the absence of EBNA antibodies mean that the infection has occurred recently and is acute.
  • The presence of EBNA antibodies means that infection has occurred in the past because it takes 6 – 8 weeks. These antibodies stay in the blood for life.


If you present with the symptoms of mononucleosis and your test results also show any one of the antibodies, better consult with your doctor. They can clearly diagnose the illness and treat you accordingly.


Related Tests:


  • Bacteria Culture Test
  • Complete Blood Count (CBC)
  • Herpes (HSV) Test
  • Blood Smear
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