Epstein-Barr Virus That is Wide-Spread in UK Has Potential of Producing Multiple Sclerosis

Epstein-Barr Virus

A common virus, which can lead to symptoms like a sore throat, fever, and rash, among others, may potentially trigger debilitating multiple sclerosis (MS), according to recent research.

The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), also known for causing glandular fever or ‘kissing disease’ due to its presence in saliva, is prevalent among adults—up to 95% have been exposed to it. EBV, classified as human herpesvirus 4, belongs to the herpes virus family.

Even though many who contract EBV may not show symptoms unless they develop glandular fever, the Multiple Sclerosis Trust emphasizes that having had EBV infection or glandular fever does not necessarily imply a risk of developing MS.

However, modern detection methods reveal that nearly all individuals with MS have previously been infected with EBV.

Referring to American studies, the Trust highlighted that researchers tracked individuals who provided repeated blood samples over several years to monitor EBV infections. They found a significantly increased risk of developing MS following EBV infection.

Dr. Olivia Thomas from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden commented, “MS is an incredibly complex disease, but our study provides an important piece in the puzzle and could explain why some people develop the disease.

We have discovered that antibodies against EBV, which normally fight the infection, can mistakenly target the brain and spinal cord and cause damage.”

Epstein-Barr Virus

Examining blood samples from over 700 MS patients and 700 healthy individuals, researchers identified that antibodies binding to an EBV protein, EBNA1, can also bind to a similar protein in the brain and spinal cord called CRYAB.

This phenomenon, termed molecular mimicry, suggests that misdirected antibodies may damage the nervous system, leading to severe MS symptoms.

Co-author Mattias Bronge, an affiliated researcher at the Department of Clinical Neuroscience, added, “We are now expanding our research to investigate how T-cells fight EBV infection and how these immune cells may damage the nervous system in multiple sclerosis, contributing to disease progression.”

According to the NHS, multiple sclerosis is a lifelong condition affecting the brain and spinal cord, manifesting a variety of potential symptoms including vision problems, mobility issues, sensory disturbances, and balance problems.

It is a leading cause of disability in younger adults, more commonly diagnosed in individuals in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, with a higher prevalence in women.

MS symptoms include fatigue, mobility impairments, vision issues, muscle spasms, numbness, pain, speech difficulties, depression, anxiety, sexual dysfunction, bladder and bowel problems, and cognitive impairments.

Symptoms of EBV infection include fatigue, fever, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, enlarged spleen, swollen liver, and rash.

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