Epstein-Barr Could Be the ‘Leading Cause’ of MS — A Discovery That May Lead to a Cure
A new study of more than 10 million people found that the risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS) rose by 32 times following infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).
Researchers could not find any other explanation for MS development in these individuals, noting that EBV could therefore be “the leading cause of MS.”
The study authors suggest that targeting EBV in the future could be key to finding a cure for MS.
Scientists have long suspected that a link exists between the Epstein-Barr virus and the development of multiple sclerosis. Researchers behind a new study believe they have found the most definitive evidence so far that identifies EBV as the main trigger of MS.
Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health analyzed data from more than 10 million members of the U.S. military for the study, published Jan. 13 in the journal Science. They reviewed participants’ medical records over 20 years to evaluate whether a link existed between EBV and MS, and found a 32-fold higher MS risk following infection with EBV. The study authors were not able to identify any other explanation for MS development among study participants, suggesting Epstein-Barr as “the leading cause of MS,” they wrote.
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Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system).
In MS, the immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin) that covers nerve fibers and causes communication problems between your brain and the rest of your body. Eventually, the disease can cause permanent damage or deterioration of the nerves.
Signs and symptoms of MS vary widely and depend on the amount of nerve damage and which nerves are affected. Some people with severe MS may lose the ability to walk independently or at all, while others may experience long periods of remission without any new symptoms.
There’s no cure for multiple sclerosis. However, treatments can help speed recovery from attacks, modify the course of the disease and manage symptoms.