EBV (Epstein-Barr Virus) Test

Epstein-Barr virus test is a blood test to detect antibodies to the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) antigens. Blood is typically drawn from a vein, usually from the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand. The site is cleaned with germ-killing medicine (antiseptic). The health care provider wraps an elastic band around the upper arm to apply pressure to the area and make the vein swell with blood.

Epstein – Barr virus (EBV) antibodies are used to help diagnose Mono if you are symptomatic but have a negative Mono test. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend ordering:

  • Viral capsid antigen (VCA)-IgM, VCA-IgG and D early antigen (EA-D) — to detect a current or recent infection
  • VCA-IgG and Epstein Barr nuclear antigen (EBNA) — to detect a previous infection

In pregnant women with symptoms of a viral illness, one or more of these EBV antibodies may be ordered along with tests for CMV, toxoplasmosis, and other infections (sometimes as part of a TORCH screen) to help distinguish between EBV and conditions that may cause similar symptoms.

Occasionally, a VCA-IgG or other EBV antibody may be repeated 2-4 weeks after the first test, either to see if a test changes from negative to positive or to measure changes in antibody concentrations to see if they rise or fall.

A VCA-IgG test, and sometimes an EBNA test, may be ordered on an asymptomatic patient to see if that person has been previously exposed to EBV or is susceptible to a primary EBV infection. This is not routinely done, but it may be ordered when a patient, such as an adolescent or an immune compromised patient, has been in close contact with a person who has Mono.