New evidence suggests Epstein-Barr virus triggers Multiple Sclerosis

Researchers have found evidence to suggest that the Epstein-Barr virus, which causes a number of diseases including mononucleosis, could also trigger multiple sclerosis (MS).

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic disease in which a person’s immune system attacks the myelin sheath and fibers that surround the brain and spinal cord. About 1 million people in the United States are estimated to have the disease, according to the most recent data from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Some people with MS may only develop mild symptoms of the disease, while others may lose the ability to walk or speak. What causes the body’s immune system to attack itself has stumped scientists.


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A team of researchers has found evidence that it is an infection with the Epstein-Barr virus that causes the unnatural immune response, according to a study published in Sciences.

“Our group and others have investigated the hypothesis that EBV causes MS for several years, but this is the first study to provide convincing evidence of causality,” said study senior author Alberto Ascherio, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard Chan School. , in a sentence. “This is a big step because it suggests that most cases of MS could be prevented by stopping EBV infection, and that targeting EBV could lead to the discovery of a cure for MS.”

To reach this conclusion, the researchers conducted a study of more than 10 million active-duty adults in the US military and found 955 who had been diagnosed with MS during service.

The team analyzed serum samples from the Army to determine whether each soldier had been infected with the Epstein-Barr virus, which is present in about 95 percent of all adults, and then compared those findings to whether they had been diagnosed with MS. during his time on active duty.

The researchers found that the risk of MS increased 32-fold if a soldier had been infected with the Epstein-Barr virus and remained unchanged if they had been infected with another virus.

Additionally, biomarkers of the nerve degeneration that occurs in MS were increased in soldiers who had been infected with the Epstein-Barr virus, which helped the researchers believe that the virus is the main cause of MS.

“Currently, there is no way to effectively prevent or treat EBV infection, but an EBV vaccine or targeting the virus with EBV-specific antiviral drugs could ultimately prevent or cure MS.” Asquerio said.


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