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  • Writer's pictureMaahik Trivedi

EBV and Multiple Sclerosis Connection: New News


the Epstein-Barr Virus, which has been shown to be linked with Multiple Sclerosis

Recent studies have shown an undeniable link between the Epstein-Barr Virus and the neurodegenerative disease Multiple Sclerosis (National Cancer Institute, Wikimedia Commons)


In recent years, researchers have discovered a significant link between Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV). Although the exact mechanisms of this link are still under investigation, there is notable evidence supporting the connection. However, a new study published on January 8, 2024, suggests an even stronger correlation between the two conditions than previously suspected.


What is MS and EBV?


MS is a chronic neurological disease that affects the central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord. The immune system mistakenly attacks the protective covering of nerve fibers (called myelin), causing communication problems between the brain and the rest of the body. This can lead to symptoms like fatigue, difficulty walking, numbness or weakness in limbs, muscle stiffness or spasms, problems with coordination and balance, and changes in sensation or cognition.


EBV is a very common virus belonging to the herpes family. EBV infects and replicates in human B lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) and epithelial cells. It is best known for causing infectious mononucleosis, often called "mono" or the "kissing disease." EBV is highly contagious and is usually spread through saliva, hence its association with kissing. Most people are infected with EBV at some point in their lives, and the virus typically remains dormant in the body after primary infection. However, in some cases, EBV can reactivate and cause additional health problems, particularly in individuals with weakened immune systems.


Previous Studies


MS and EBV have been a major point in research for the past decade. One study titled "Complete Epstein-Barr virus seropositivity in a large cohort of patients with early multiple sclerosis," published May 5, 2020, aimed to investigate the prevalence of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) in a large group of patients diagnosed with early Multiple Sclerosis (MS).


The study found that all patients with early MS tested positive for antibodies against EBV. Of the 901 patients tested, 839 had antibodies to EBV nuclear antigen-1 (EBNA-1), 45 patients had viral capsid antigen (VCA) antibodies, and the remaining 17 patients later tested positive for EBV antibodies. This complete EBV seropositivity in the MS cohort strengthens the association between EBV infection and MS.


Another study titled "Longitudinal analysis reveals high prevalence of Epstein-Barr virus associated with multiple sclerosis," published Jan 13, 2022, investigates the association between Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection and multiple sclerosis (MS) by analyzing data from over 10 million US military recruits. The study found that EBV infection significantly increases the risk of developing MS, with a 32-fold increase in MS risk observed after EBV seroconversion. Almost all MS cases in the study displayed positivity for EBV. Additionally, the study identified that serum levels of neurofilament light chain, a biomarker for nerve degeneration in MS, increased only after EBV infection and before MS diagnosis. These findings provide more compelling evidence of the role of EBV in the development of MS and support the potential for EBV vaccines and antiviral drugs to prevent or treat MS.


A New Study


A new study titled "Expanded T lymphocytes in the cerebrospinal fluid of multiple sclerosis patients are specific for Epstein-Barr-virus-infected B cells," published Jan 8, 2024, aims to investigate the presence of expanded T lymphocytes in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) and their specificity for Epstein-Barr-virus (EBV)-infected B cells.


The study found that a significant proportion of expanded clones of T lymphocytes in the CSF were specific for autologous EBV-infected B cells. Blood and CSF samples were obtained from relapsing-remitting MS patients, and the T cell receptors (TCR) from these samples were sequenced. The results showed that the TCR sequences in both the CSF and blood samples primarily represented EBV-infected B cells, suggesting their involvement in MS.


These findings now add further evidence to a strong association between EBV and MS, indicating the potential involvement of EBV-specific T lymphocytes in the pathogenesis of the disease. The study highlights the importance of understanding the role of EBV in MS and its potential implications for treatment and prevention.


 

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