Mononucleosis was first described in 1885 by Nil Filatov, a famous Russian pediatrician . In 1889, a German doctor named Emil Pfeiffer described a similar condition characterized by fever, sore throat, enlarged spleen, and swollen lymph nodes and liver. He called it “glandular fever.” Deaths due to glandular fever or similar conditions were subsequently reported by other physicians.
In 1920, Thomas Peck Sprunt and Frank Alexander Evans coined the term “infectious mononucleosis” to refer to what had previously been called glandular fever . Around that same time, the colloquialism “kissing disease” came into use. This was due to the fact that this particular disease was spread through saliva .
During the 1940s, clinicians became aware of the potential dangers of mono. In 1944, death from a spleen rupture, one of the complications of mononucleosis, was reported for the first time. In 1953, a review of 38 mono-associated deaths was published by Sidney Leibowitz.
At the University of Bristol, in 1964, Michael Epstein, Yvonne Barr, and Bert Achong found EBV in Burkitt’s lymphoma cells. (Burkitt lymphoma is lymphatic cancer named after an Irish doctor, Denis Parsons Burkitt.) Werner and Gertrude Henle linked the pathogen with infectious mononucleosis in 1968 at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia [9,11].
In 1970, H.G. Penman, a pathologist from the University of Otago medical school in Dunedin, New Zealand, published a comprehensive review of 87 mono-related deaths. He found that only 20 out of 87 reported cases were actually caused by mononucleosis. This review specifies that fatalities due to mono are rare, but the possibility cannot be overlooked .