Epstein-Barr virus may Speed Progression of MS

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Scientists from University at Buffalo and the University of Trieste, Italy find that MS progresses more rapidly in the presence of Epstein-Barr virus (EPV). Researchers say the mononucleosis virus, EPV, also causes degeneration of the nerves, speeding the progression of MS (multiple sclerosis).

Robert Zivadinov, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of neurology in UB's Jacobs Neurological Institute says, "This study is one of the first to provide evidence that a viral agent may be related to the severity of MS disease process, as measured by MRI."

The study is the first to study the brain using MRI in patients with MS, though past studies have shown an association between multiple sclerosis and Epstein-Barr virus. The scientists measured baseline brain volume and gray matter in 135 patients, and again at three years. They found that higher levels of Epstein-Barr virus was associated with a substantial increase in loss of gray matter and total brain volume compared to baseline MRI in the patient with MS.


The scientists, in addition to exploring how Epstein-Barr virus might speed the progression of MS, plan to study other factors that contribute to brain injury associated with multiple sclerosis.

Ongoing studies are looking at antibody levels of Epstein-Barr virus in patients with multiple sclerosis who experience “clinically isolated syndrome," a condition that lasts 24 hours, and attacks multiple sites of the nervous system, producing loss of myelin and inflammation of the nerves, and brain degeneration. A diagnosis of MS follows if a second episode occurs.

The researchers are also exploring environmental and genetic factors that may be associated with multiple sclerosis and brain deterioration.



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