18 August 1998

The Kiss Of Death For The Kissing Disease

It's called 'mono' (after mononucleosis), the 'kissing disease' (how you get it) and 'glandular fever' (what it really is) depending on which country you are in.

New Australian research into the Epstein Barr virus which causes glandular fever has resulted in a trial vaccine being developed. Epstein Barr is thought to be responsible for a number of diseases including:

Unfortunately the diseases caused by the virus are more common with people who have reduced immunity. This is a particular problem with transplant patients who are often given drugs which artificially suppress the immune system.

In the developing world the rate of infection is almost one hundred percent, but Epstein Barr also affects almost eighty percent of people in the rest of the world!

As some of its nicknames suggest the disease is spread by saliva primarily by kissing.

Like most viruses, the best defence against Epstein Barr is vaccination, but developing one has proved extremely difficult. However research work done by scientists in the Cooperative Research Centre for Vaccine Technology at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research has led to the development of just such a vaccine, which is currently being tested on volunteers. If successful further tests and trials will have to be carried out, but there is now hope in the fight against the 'kissing' disease!