Weight added to argument EBV triggers MS

Further evidence that the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) may cause multiple sclerosis (MS) comes in the form of a new study from Germany in which all 901 early disease patients were carrying antibodies against the virus. This means that everyone in the study was currently, or had been, exposed to it.

Published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, the study looked at 901 people with early MS included in the German National MS cohort and tested them for EBV. The group were aged between 27 and 41 and 42.2 per cent had clinically isolated syndrome and 57.8 per cent had early relapsing remitting MS.

The researchers used data from 16,163 people who had routine EBV tests as a control group.

As controls, the team used data from 16,163 individuals tested for EBV for routine diagnostic purposes.

Using various testing methods, it was established that all patients were or had been infected with EBV.

Some experts have said they think EBV infections could be the root cause of MS, with the virus somehow tricking the immune system into attacking the myelin sheath. If this were true, it would mean every MS patient would have had to have been infected with the virus in their lives, but some studies have demonstrated people can have MS without being previously infected. However, researchers have questioned whether this was because people had been misdiagnosed or the tests for EBV were not accurate enough.

The researchers said that the viral infection is unlikely to be the only cause of MS, however, and there was a high prevalence of EBV infection throughout the control group also.