A Game of Spin the Bottle, Then Mono, EBV and MS

Debi Wilson avatar

by Debi Wilson |

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Faith of the Mustard Seed

A popular theory of what contributes to developing multiple sclerosis is a disease called mononucleosis (also known as glandular fever), which can be caused by Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). It is thought that the virus weakens our defenses in the blood-brain barrier, allowing white blood cells and/or bacteria in to the central nervous system (CSN). The CNS is an uncommon area for white blood cells to be, so when they detect healthy cells and myelin, they attack them thinking that they are an enemy.

According to the National MS Society, studies conducted by Alberto Ascherio, MD, and his team at the Harvard School of Public Health determined that:

  • Antibodies (immune proteins that indicate a person has been exposed) to EBV were significantly higher in people who eventually developed MS than in control samples of people who did not get the disease.
  • MS risk increased significantly following infection with EBV, thereby demonstrating that EBV was in the body before MS developed.
  • People with a specific immune-related gene and high levels of antibodies to EBV in their blood were nine times more likely to develop MS than those without the gene and with low levels of the antibodies.

A life-changing moment

The saying, “Your life can change in a split second,” holds significant meaning for me. I believe my life-changing “second” was in 1970, on my 14th birthday. My friend decided to throw a party for me to celebrate. One of the games chosen was “spin the bottle.” I was pretty shy, and wasn’t looking forward to playing it at all. The idea of my first kiss being in front of a room full of my peers was mortifying. It turned out fine, “the spins” consisted of a few quick pecks and the game was over, or so I thought.

Speed up to me becoming very sick. Mononucleosis (the kissing disease) was the diagnosis, plus strep throat and a swollen spleen. I had no idea where I had caught the disease. Then I was told a boy at the party had mono also, maybe even more kids. A lot of the kids went to another school so I never really found out.

Could that have been the start of my MS? Something so random and innocent as a game of spin the bottle?

It is very possible that a birthday party, and a quick kiss, put me on the path of this very despicable disease!

Interestingly, my fellow columnist Ian Franks addressed the same issue last year.


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Teresa Pipgras avatar

Teresa Pipgras

Well I had Mono when a teen. Hmmm...

Alison Burns avatar

Alison Burns

I had Quinsey aged 14 , an ent illness closely related to mono and glandular fever . I probably contracted it via Teenage kissing episodes! Fast forward to 2 decades on and I was diagnosed with a textbook case of MS. I’ve always wondered about this, because my twin sister had glandular fever but never got MS. I’ve been living with this for 16 years and am now aged 57.

Becky Henly avatar

Becky Henly

Many of us had a significant case of mono. I do believe it is strongly related. A plant based diet and supplement can help

Debi Wilson avatar

Debi Wilson

True Becky, what supplements do you take? Debi

Louisa in NC avatar

Louisa in NC

I remember having mono in high school! I don't remember anyone else having it, so I have no idea where I contracted it! No spin the bottle! I was a freshman and haven't graduated to a lot of kissing yet! LOL!

Debi Wilson avatar

Debi Wilson

LOL! It is interesting how many MSer's had Mono! Thanks for your comment Louisa!:) Debi

Cathie avatar


I never had mono...

Tim Bossie avatar

Tim Bossie

This post is about the possibility of developing MS later in life, but not a definite conclusion. Although, it seems that from comments here and on FB, that does look like a possible indicator.

Sally888 avatar


You may of not known. Some get very mild.

Ashekka Moultrie avatar

Ashekka Moultrie

I didn't either

Monica avatar


It’s possible to have Epstein Barr Virus and Mononucleosis without ever knowing. Some individuals don’t have as severe of a bout of mono as others and it may go undetected and not tested for.

Karyn avatar


I had a pretty severe case of mono...then diagnosed with MS a few years later..m

Monica avatar


I too had gradular fever at the age of 12 yrs old, i was taken home by my teacher, i felt really faint and i had swallen glands. So there you go, terrible but true.

Fran Britton avatar

Fran Britton

My father had MS, my daughter had mono at sixteen and was diagnosed with MS at 34.

Sue avatar


My son had mono @ 2 1/2, and my stepson had EBV @ 14. This would've been in early - late 90's. My MS diagnosis came in 2003.

TyTanMommy avatar


I had Mono at 16, and severe strep throat and thrush. Also had a horrible reaction and now allergy to amoxycillan. Awful burning rash all over my body face head to toe. Along with uncontrollable fever which brought me to 2 weeks inpatient care. I'm now getting rhumatoid Arthritis and Hashimoto's diagnosed, both auto immune. Ughhh... and waiting on Neuro appointment to rule out MS or Lupus.

CCryder avatar


I had a reactivation of Mononucleosis after taking Tecfidera for 2 years. It took me 6 months to get over and I finally stopped taking the Tecfidera to do it. Has anyone else had Mono reactivate?


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