Multiple sclerosis may be caused by common 'kissing disease' virus: scientists

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Leroy N. Soetoro

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Jan 17, 2022, 2:12:53 PM1/17/22
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A virus that infects more than 90% of adults and causes the “kissing
disease” has been linked with the onset of multiple sclerosis in a new
study.

Researchers at Harvard University have added further evidence that the
same virus which causes the illness mononucleosis, a k a “mono,” and
commonly passed through saliva — hence “kissing disease” — may also
encourage the development of multiple sclerosis, an inflammatory
demyelinating disease of the central nervous system.

The Epstein-Barr virus is a member of the herpes family, and one of the
most common human viruses in the world. Some EBV infections may prompt
fever, rash, sore throat, body aches and swollen glands — the conditions
of mononucleosis.

But new findings published in the journal Science on Thursday show that
EBV may further lead to multiple sclerosis in some infected people.

“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,” said the study’s senior author, Alberto Ascherio,
a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School
of Public Health, in a press release.

The study observed a group of 955 active service members in the US
military who were diagnosed with MS. Comparing them to samples from a pool
of 10 million service members, researchers saw that those found to be
infected with the Epstein-Barr virus were 32-times more likely to have
developed MS, while no other virus was shown to have the same effect.

MS causes the body’s immune defenses to attack otherwise healthy sheaths
of myelin on nerves in the brain and spinal cord. Those who suffer from
its neurodegenerative effects live with myriad and often debilitating
physical symptoms, such as widespread pain and numbness; poor
coordination, muscle weakness and paralysis; impaired vision and loss of
sight; speech dysfunction; anxiety and depression.

There is no cure for the autoimmune disease, which strikes nearly 1
million Americans, close to three-quarters of whom are women, according to
the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Most will be diagnosed as young
adults or later in midlife, although it can also develop in young children
and seniors.

Treatment usually involves management of these symptoms and their triggers
including immunosuppressant drugs, chemotherapy and steroids, which help
to slow the progression of the disease, as well as physical therapy and
counseling.

Ascherio added, “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.”

Stamping out EBV would be a feat as most adults worldwide are carriers of
the infection, but Ascherio suggests there may be mitigating factors that
work to lower the risk of developing MS following EBV infection.

He said, “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.”



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President Trump boosted the economy, reduced illegal invasions, appointed
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