What is ‘kissing disease’?

  • More formally called mononucleosis, it is a disease that is primarily spread by contact with saliva (which is why it is called ‘kissing disease’) and causes extreme fatigue for weeks.
  • Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is the most common cause, but other viruses can also cause this disease. It is common among teenagers and young adults, especially college students.
  • It now emerges that EBV can cause seven other related diseases: systemic lupus erythematosus; multiple sclerosis; rheumatoid arthritis; juvenile idiopathic arthritis; inflammatory bowel disease; celiac disease; and type 1 diabetes.
  • A protein produced by the EBV, called EBNA-2, binds to multiple locations along the human genome that are associated with these seven diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, EBV is a member of the herpes virus family.


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