Skip to main content

Health Encyclopedia

Search the Health Encyclopedia

Mononucleosis spot test

Definition

The mononucleosis spot test looks for 2 antibodies in the blood. These antibodies appear during or after an infection with the virus that causes mononucleosis, or mono.

Alternative Names

Monospot test; Heterophile antibody test; Heterophile agglutination test; Paul-Bunnell test; Forssman antibody test

How the Test is Performed

A blood sample is needed.

How to Prepare for the Test

No special preparation is necessary.

How the Test will Feel

When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain. Others feel only a prick or stinging. Afterward, there may be some throbbing or a slight bruise. This soon goes away.

Why the Test is Performed

The mononucleosis spot test is done when symptoms of mononucleosis are present. Common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Large spleen (possibly)
  • Sore throat
  • Tender lymph nodes along the back of the neck

This test looks for antibodies called heterophile antibodies. These form in the body during the infection.

Normal Results

A negative test means there were no heterophile antibodies detected. Most of the time this means you do not have infectious mononucleosis.

Sometimes, the test may be negative because it was done too soon (within 1 to 2 weeks) after the illness started. Your health care provider may repeat the test to make sure you do not have mono.

What Abnormal Results Mean

A positive test means heterophile antibodies are present. These are most often a sign of mononucleosis. Your provider will also consider other blood test results and your symptoms. A small number of people with mononucleosis may never have a positive test.

The highest number of antibodies occurs 2 to 5 weeks after mono begins. They may be present for up to 1 year.

In rare cases, the test is positive even though you do not have mono. This is called a false-positive result, and it may occur in people with:

  • Hepatitis
  • Leukemia or lymphoma
  • Rubella
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Toxoplasmosis

Risks

Veins and arteries vary in size from one person to another and from one side of the body to the other. Obtaining a blood sample from some people may be more difficult than from others.

Other risks associated with having blood drawn are slight but may include:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Fainting or feeling lightheaded
  • Hematoma (blood buildup under the skin)
  • Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)

References

Johannsen EC, Kaye KM. Epstein-Barr virus (infectious mononucleosis, Epstein-Barr virus--associated malignant diseases, and other diseases). In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blase MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 141.

Lindemann JC. Fatigue. In: Bope ET, Kellerman RD, eds. Conn's Current Therapy 2016. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:section 1.

Schooley RT. Epstein-Barr virus infection. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 377.

Weber R. Pharyngitis. In: Bope ET, Kellerman RD, eds. Conn's Current Therapy 2016. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:section 1.

Review Date:3/13/2016
Reviewed By:Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997-A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

adam.com

The Agency for Health Care Administration (Agency) and this website do not claim the information on, or referred to by, this site is error free. This site may include links to websites of other government agencies or private groups. Our Agency and this website do not control such sites and are not responsible for their content. Reference to or links to any other group, product, service, or information does not mean our Agency or this website approves of that group, product, service, or information.

Additionally, while health information provided through this website may be a valuable resource for the public, it is not designed to offer medical advice. Talk with your doctor about medical care questions you may have.

Health
Outcome Data

No data available for this condition/procedure.

Read More

Health Encyclopedia

More Features

We Appreciate Your Feedback!
1. Did you find this information useful?
         Yes
         No
2. Would you recommend this website to family and friends?
         Yes
         No