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MS, virus link shown in new findings

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Researchers have proven there is a link between the Epstein-Barr virus and MS.

In an exciting new study, researchers have proven there is link between the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and multiple sclerosis. According to the finding, the virus is involved with triggering MS in ways that weren’t previously shown, but suggested.

For the newest finding, published in the journal Neurology, researchers examined the brains of people with MS after death, focusing on areas that had recently undergone damage. They discovered EBV seems to hide in the immune cells, potentially triggering inflammation and neurological damage associated with multiple sclerosis.

Dr Ute-Christiane Meier from Barts and the London Medical School, part of Queen Mary who led the research explained: “EBV is quite a clever virus; when it’s not growing and spreading it can hide away in our immune cells.

“In this study we used a different technique which allowed us to detect the virus in the brains of some people affected by MS, even when it was hiding away in the cells.”

Even though the Epstein-Barr virus wasn’t active, the researchers say it sends chemical signals via RNA molecules that activate the immune system and cause inflammation and nerve damage that causes symptoms of MS.

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Now that research has found the EBV, MS link, they say it could lead to more treatments, though the scientists plan to continue their studies to confirm their findings.

Dr. Meier said, “We have to be careful and have to study more MS brains but this is potentially very exciting research. Now we understand how EBV gets smuggled into the brain by cells of the immune system and that it is found at the crime scene, right where the attack on our nervous system occurs. Now we know this, we may have a number of new ways of treating or even preventing the disease.”

The research means there may be ways to halt the progression of multiple sclerosis with anti-viral drugs or Rituximab, a drug that kills immune cells that harbor the virus.

The study also found a possible link between the Epstein-Barr virus and other diseases such as cancer and stroke.

The researchers hope to be able to pinpoint the link between MS and the virus in hopes of finding better ways to treat the condition. Clinical trials are in preparation using anti-viral treatment. A current trial is studying the effect of Rituximab for treating multiple sclerosis.

Neurology: , doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e31823ed057
"Association of innate immune activation with latent Epstein-Barr virus in active MS lesions"
J.S. Tzartos et al.
January 3, 2012

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Bright spots on MRI shows progression of multiple sclerosis



Isn't Epstein-Barr also a possible cause of Bell's Palsy?? Had a family member with a temporary episode of partial facial paralysis diagnosed as Bell's palsy. Not a fun thing to have when there is no guarantee of whether it may be permanent or not.
It's been linked to Epstein-Barr, yes, but most commonly associated with the herpes simplex virus. It is a frightening thing and varies in duration.