They identify the virus that causes multiple sclerosis: Epstein-Barr


Nova YorkFor decades, researchers have suspected that people infected with a very common virus, Epstein-Barr, may be more likely to develop multiple sclerosis, a neurological disease that affects one million people in the United States and 50,000 in Spain. A team of researchers has now reported what is considered to be the most compelling evidence of a strong link between the two diseases. The study, published in the journal Science, may further motivate research on therapies and vaccines for multiple sclerosis.

The group of researchers, led by Dr. Alberto Ascherio of Harvard School of Public Health, examined data from 10 million people on active duty in the U.S. military for twenty years to assess whether Epstein-Barr infections preceded multiple sclerosis. Of all those investigated, from whom blood was drawn each year, 801 developed the disease, which occurs when the immune system attacks the isolation that protects the nerves in the brain and spinal cord. Most people who develop the disease are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, although the chance of developing it is 0.5%. In contrast, Epstein-Barr virus is very common: although some people are unaware of it, everyone can become infected at some point, and the virus stays in the body for life.

Researchers believe that because there are few people infected with the virus who end up suffering from multiple sclerosis, this may not be the only cause of the disease. Thus, other risk factors have been identified, such as low vitamin D levels and smoking, which the group of researchers was able to verify with the same data set. At the same time, genetic factors have been found: most patients are women, and 900 abnormal genes have also been identified in patients with multiple sclerosis, said Dr. Anthony J. Reder, an expert on multiple sclerosis at the University of Chicago. However, none of these risk factors stand out as Epstein-Barr infections do.

Thirty times more chances

The aim was to determine the extent to which the virus increases the risk of multiple sclerosis. The researchers studied the small proportion of people who were not infected with the virus at the beginning of their career in the armed forces and who later became infected and ended up developing multiple sclerosis. They found 34. They also concluded that, among patients with multiple sclerosis, 32 out of 33 had been infected with Epstein-Barr before. “This means that an Epstein-Barr virus infection increases the risk of multiple sclerosis more than 30 times,” Ascherio said.

“The vast majority of cases of multiple sclerosis are caused by the Epstein-Barr virus and could potentially be prevented with a proper vaccine,” the researchers write in Science. All this leaves the question in the air what to do now. Dr. Bruce Cree, a researcher on multiple sclerosis at the University of California, said it could be difficult to treat multiple sclerosis by chasing Epstein-Barr, because it can be difficult to find the real virus in patients because Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the brain and spinal cord, the virus could not be found in the patients’ spinal fluid. In this regard, Dr. Lawrence Steinman, a researcher in the disease at Stanford, also wrote in the same article that an experimental messenger RNA vaccine against Epstein-Barr was one of several approaches designed to prevent the virus from affecting the brain. A few weeks ago, Moderna announced the start of a clinical trial of a first vaccine against this virus, which could be effective not only against sclerosis but also against other diseases associated with Epstein-Barr, such as monoducleosis or Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The question now, Steinman said, is, “Can we make multiple sclerosis go away?”


Source: Ara.cat – Portada by www.ara.cat.

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