College of Medicine & Veterinary Medicine

Gender gap found in kissing disease

Female students who catch glandular fever suffer a greater loss of study time than male students, a study has found.

Researchers at the University found that on average female patients with the infection missed 16 hours of classes compared to three hours for infected male students.

Women also experienced severe tiredness for twice as long as males - four months after diagnosis compared to two months for males.

The study found that on average study time in both genders was reduced by 25 hours per week.

The results also show that students with glandular fever - also known as kissing disease - slept for three hours longer each day than healthy students. They also spent on average eight hours less on social activities.

The researchers hope that the findings will help to develop strategies that could reduce both the incidence of glandular fever and its prolonged effects on patients.

The research is published in the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal.

Glandular fever

Glandular fever is a ‘flu-like’ illness caused by primary infection with Epstein-Barr Virus.

The virus is spread via saliva and infects most people early in childhood - usually with no symptoms, however, in some people contact with the virus may be delayed until young adulthood when the infection can cause glandular fever.

The symptoms of the illness usually last for a few weeks and include sore throat, enlarged neck glands, fever and severe tiredness.

Most of those affected recover within six weeks however some people may experience severe tiredness for several months.

Glandular fever patients who attended the University Health Centre took part in a study carried out by researchers at the Centre for Infectious Diseases.

They completed lifestyle questionnaires detailing the progress of their symptoms and how the disease affected their everyday activities over a six month period.

Our observations are very interesting. There is clear evidence that glandular fever may affect both the academic and social activities of students, particularly in the case of female students. Depending on the severity of the illness this may have an adverse effect on a student’s overall performance at university.

Dr Karen MacsweenCentre of Infectious Diseases