Compelling Evidence That Multiple Sclerosis Is Caused by Epstein-Barr Virus

Epstein Barr Virus Illustration

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Epstein-Barr Virus illustration.

Multiple sclerosis (MS), a progressive illness that impacts 2.8 million individuals around the world and for which there is no conclusive remedy, is most likely triggered by infection with the Epstein-Barr infection (EBV), according to a research study led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health scientists.

Their findings were released online in Science on January 13, 2022.

“The hypothesis that EBV causes MS has been investigated by our group and others for several years, but this is the first study providing compelling evidence of causality,” stated Alberto Ascherio, teacher of public health and nutrition at Harvard Chan School and senior author of the research study. “This is a big step because it suggests that most MS cases could be prevented by stopping EBV infection, and that targeting EBV could lead to the discovery of a cure for MS.”

MS is a persistent inflammatory illness of the main nerve system that assaults the myelin sheaths securing nerve cells in the brain and spine. Its cause is not understood, yet among the leading suspects is EBV, a herpes infection that can trigger transmittable mononucleosis and develops a hidden, long-lasting infection of the host. Establishing a causal relationship in between the infection and the illness has actually been challenging since EBV contaminates around 95% of grownups, MS is a fairly uncommon illness, and the start of MS signs starts about 10 years after EBV infection. To identify the connection in between EBV and MS, the scientists performed a research study amongst more than 10 million young people on active service in the U.S. military and recognized 955 who were detected with MS throughout their duration of service.

The group evaluated serum samples taken biennially by the military and figured out the soldiers’ EBV status sometimes of very first sample and the relationship in between EBV infection and MS start throughout the duration of active service. In this associate, the danger of MS increased 32- fold after infection with EBV however was the same after infection with other infections. Serum levels of neurofilament light chain, a biomarker of the nerve degeneration normal in MS, increased just after EBV infection. The findings can not be discussed by any recognized danger aspect for MS and recommend EBV as the leading reason for MS.

Ascherio states that the hold-up in between EBV infection and the start of MS might be partly due the illness’s signs being undiscovered throughout the earliest phases and partly due to the progressing relationship in between EBV and the host’s body immune system, which is consistently promoted whenever hidden infection reactivates.

“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,” stated Ascherio.

Reference: “Longitudinal analysis reveals high prevalence of Epstein-Barr virus associated with multiple sclerosis” by Kjetil Bjornevik, Marianna Cortese, Brian C. Healy, Jens Kuhle, Michael J. Mina, Yumei Leng, Stephen J. Elledge, David W. Niebuhr, Ann I. Scher, Kassandra L. Munger and Alberto Ascherio, 13 January 2022, Science
DOI: 10.1126/ science.abj8222

Other Harvard Chan School scientists who added to this research study consist of Kjetil Bjornevik, Marianna Cortese, Michael Mina, and Kassandra Munger.

Funding for this research study came the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health (NS046635, NS042194, and NS103891), the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (PP-1912-35234), the German Research Foundation (CO 2129/ 1-1), the National Institutes of Health (DP5- OD028145), and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

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