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J Infect Dis. 2002 Sep 15;186(6):731-6. Epub 2002 Aug 20.

Sexual history and Epstein-Barr virus infection.

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Section of Medical Microbiology, Division of Biomedical and Clinical Laboratory Sciences, University of Edinburgh Medical School, Edinburgh EH8 9XD, United Kingdom.


To determine the role of sexual contact in transmission of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and occurrence of infectious mononucleosis (IM), a cross-sectional study was undertaken of EBV serologic testing and histories of IM and sexual behavior among 1006 new students at Edinburgh University. Prevalence of EBV seropositivity was significantly greater among women (79.2%) than among men (67.4%; P<.001) and among those who had ever been sexually active (82.7%) than among those who had not (63.7%; P<.001). Having a greater number of sex partners was a highly significant risk factor for EBV seropositivity. Two thirds of IM cases, but only a tenth of asymptomatic primary EBV infections, were statistically attributable to sexual intercourse. The findings suggest that EBV transmission occurs during sexual intercourse or closely associated behaviors. Transmission in this way appears to account for most cases of IM but for only a minority of cases of asymptomatic EBV infection, which mainly occur at younger ages.

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