What are treatments for the Epstein-Barr virus?

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What are treatments for the Epstein-Barr virus?
« on: 03/08/2009 09:30:02 »
Graham asked the Naked Scientists:
Hi to you Chris and your team.

My brother, who is 60 years of age, has somehow contracted the Epstein-Barr virus. He is constantly losing weight and sleeps all the time.

He has had, as of today, chest x-rays to check for TB and they have come back clear.  We have searched the Internet and have seen stacks of information regarding this virus.  My question is what is the cause of this virus and how can you possibly help my brother?

What do you think?


Offline Simon Waters

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What are treatments for the Epstein-Barr virus?
« Reply #1 on: 03/08/2009 10:48:23 »
Hi Graham,

I'm not a doctor. Your brother should see a doctor.

Epstein Barr (EBV) is a common viral infection. EBV causes mononucleosis (aka Glandular fever). It is a latent virus meaning many people have the virus inside them, and it often doesn't cause a particular problem until their immune system is otherwise compromised.

It would be unusual for someone's first exposure to EBV to be in their 60's so I would suspect there is something else going on with your brother's health that is making the EBV infection a problem. Hence the need for professional medical attention.

In transplant patients they use the antiviral agent Acyclovir to control Epstein Barr. I believe it has also proven effective in Epstein Barr infection in AIDs patients. There are now a burgeoning selection of antivirals like Acyclovir, although they aren't cheap, and they won't address any underlying health problem causing the virus to be a problem in a particular person.

It was recognised in the 1970's that an EBV vaccine would be a good thing, as the virus is occasionally associated with various cancers (probably only in people who are genetically susceptible), but it has proven difficult to produce an effective vaccine to EBV. Vaccines are just now coming through the test process, and hopefully when the current vaccine hysteria dies down the next generation will be spared the problems EBV causes. Such vaccines may also offer some protection against similar viruses that cause other health problems in humans.
« Last Edit: 03/08/2009 10:52:16 by Simon Waters »


Offline chris

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What are treatments for the Epstein-Barr virus?
« Reply #2 on: 03/08/2009 17:32:26 »
Hello Graham.

Can you tell us what tests have been done to confirm the presence of EBV? As Simon has stated above, EBV is a herpesvirus that establishes a life-long latent infection and as such can reactivate in response to immune-depression.

However, acute infection at age 60 is not unknown. The usual source, when this happens, are grandchildren!

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