Having The ‘Kissing Disease’ As A Kid Increases Risk Of Multiple Sclerosis, New Study Finds

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Having The 'Kissing Disease' As A Kid Increases Risk Of Developing Multiple Sclerosis, New Study FindsAlamy

A new study has found that having infectious mononucleosis as a child – commonly known as the ‘kissing disease’ – increases a person’s risk of developing multiple sclerosis in adulthood.

This population-based cohort study was published on October 11 in academic journal JAMA Network Open, drawing information from the Swedish Total Population Register.


The purpose of this study was to determine whether or not contracting mononucleosis in ‘childhood, adolescence, or young adulthood’ is linked with developing multiple sclerosis (MS) later on, ‘independent of shared familial factors’.

Sore throat (Alamy)Alamy

Study authors used information from the Swedish Total Population Register to identify 2,492,980 Swedish-born individuals who had been hospital-diagnosed with mononucleosis before reaching the age of 25.

These subjects were born between January 1, 1958 and December 31, 1994, with all turning 25 between January 1, 1990 and December 31, 2019. All of these individuals still had both parents living in 1990, so as ‘to aid in the identification of all first-degree relatives as well as MS diagnoses in parents’.


Using STATA for analysis as well as Conventional Cox proportional hazards regression models, researchers adjusted findings in accordance with ‘sex, parental MS diagnosis, birth order and parental age at birth’.

Participants were tracked from January 1, 1978 right up to December 31, 2018, with data analysed from October 2020 until July 2021. Out of the 52.63% of male subjects and 47.37% female subjects, almost 6,000 had been diagnosed with MS after the age of 20.

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The study’s authors said:


These findings suggest that IM in childhood and particularly adolescence is a risk factor associated with a diagnosis of MS, independent of shared familial factors.

Mono – often referred to in the UK as glandular fever – is an infectious viral disease characterised by the swelling of a person’s lymph glands as well as prolonged fatigue. As it’s most commonly spread through bodily fluids like saliva, it has gained the name the ‘kissing disease’ over the years.

MS is a complex, lifelong condition that can affect both the brain and spinal cord. This results in a range of possible symptoms, including issues with eyesight, limb movement, sensation and balance.

Sometimes MS can lead to severe disability, although in other cases the condition can occasionally be mild. Symptoms of MS can be treated in a number of cases, although average life expectancy is slightly reduced.


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Topics: Health, Now


JAMA Network
  1. JAMA Network

    Association of Infectious Mononucleosis in Childhood and Adolescence With Risk for a Subsequent Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosis Among Siblings

Julia Banim
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