PMID: 1126Jan 1, 1976

The specificity of heterophil antibodies in patients and healthy donors with no or minimal signs of infectious mononucleosis.

C A HorwitzP Ward


Over several years sera were collected from 14 heterophil-positive students or patients who did not fulfill minimal hematologic criteria for infectious mononucleosis (I.M.) The specificity of these heterophil reactions for I.M. was investigated by determining antibodies to Epstein-Barr virus-determined antigens, i.e., to viral capsid antigens (VCA), early antigens (EA), and EBV-associated nuclear antigens (EBNA). On the basis of detectable anti-EA and/or the early absence and late emergence of anti-EBNA, four of these 14 individuals showed evidence of a current or very recent primary Epstein-Barr virus infection. The other ten patients showed antibody patterns indicative of Epstein-Barr virus infections in the past, and no firm conclusions could be drawn with regard to the specificity of their heterophil reactions. It was assumed, however, that some represented atypical clinical forms of EBV infection and that timing of specimen collection was a factor in explaining the paucity of Downey cells. In three patients, the absorbed heterophil-positive reactions persisted with little change in titer for at least 22 mo and thus might represent false-positive tests.

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