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Epstein-Barr and Multiple Sclerosis: New Research

Posted Nov 17 2009 10:20pm
From the ms.about.com website

Monday May 25, 2009
We've talked about the link between the Epstein-Barr virus (which causes mono) and multiple sclerosis before. In fact, over 150 of you wrote in to tell your story of infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (and a vast majority reported some infection in their health history).

Researchers have released new findings that support a connect between multiple sclerosis and the Epstein-Barr virus. What is interesting (and what researcher Alberto Ascherio at Harvard discovered) is that, in a sample of 305 members of the armed services who were diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, 100% of them were infected with the Epstein-Barr virus before diagnosis (compared to 30% of over 600 other service members whose blood was examined and were similar to the 305 in age and other factors (though they had not been diagnosed with MS).

In addition to those findings, the people with high levels of antibodies to Epstein-Barr virus were as much as 50 times more likely to develop multiple sclerosis. Researchers were able to do this study because of a "bank" of blood samples that the Department of Defense keeps. This "bank" allowed researchers to test blood before and after MS diagnosis for those 305 individuals to see the levels of Epstein-Barr antibodies that were present.

Of course, not everyone who is infected with Epstein-Barr develops MS (in fact, most adults are infected with Epstein-Barr at some time in their life). It seems like being infected with Epstein-Barr (or a similar virus?) may be a necessary pre-condition to developing MS. For example, if infected with Epstein-Barr and another factor is also present (vitamin D deficiency?), then the chances of developing MS may go way up.

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