Common disease can 32-fold risk of devastating disease
Major new study has linked common disease to most likely cause of multiple sclerosis
The main cause of multiple sclerosis may be glandular fever, the so-called “kissing disease,” new research has found after a study spanning more than two decades. Harvard scientists say they have “compelling evidence” that the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) – which causes “kissing disease” / mononucleosis – is to blame.
They have tracked the prevalence of MS among 10 million U.S. Army soldiers over the past 20 years. The volunteers had regular blood tests to see if they had EBV. Almost 1,000 people have been diagnosed with a crippling disease, which can prevent victims from walking and seeing.
Analysis of the patients revealed that those with EBV were 32 times more likely to contract MS. No other infection increased the risk. Many groups have studied the main cause of multiple sclerosis and whether it could be EBV, but this is the first ratifiable study that provides convincing evidence of causation.
The news was greeted as an important step in preventing MS because it suggests that preventing EBV would stop the majority of multiple sclerosis cases. Professor Alberto Ascherio, author of the study, said: Targeting EBV could lead to the discovery of a cure for MS ”.
Dr Clare Walton, head of research at UK charity MS Society, told MailOnline “it was great to see” research into the causes of the disease, which affects more than 100,000 people in Britain and about 1 million in the United States.
However, she added that more research needed to be done as other factors must play a role.
Dr Walton warned that nine out of ten people around the world eventually get infected with EBV, but that “most do not develop MS.”
“Ultimately, we can’t be sure EBV is causing MS until we can see what impact preventing EBV infection has on the incidence of MS,” he said. -she adds. “And although research into EBV vaccines is ongoing, it is still in its early stages.”
The MS Trust also praised Harvard’s research, but warned there was “still a lot more to do.” The main cause of multiple sclerosis has long been suspected to be glandular fever, with almost everyone with the disease having caught the virus as well.
However, with around 95 percent of people getting EBV at some point in their lives and only a tiny fraction developing MS, it has been difficult to determine the relationship between the two. It is believed that the EBV virus causes the body’s immune system to mistake parts of the nervous system for a foreign substance and attacks it, causing damage and leading to the development of MS. MS is most commonly diagnosed in people in their 20s and 30s and is one of the leading causes of disability among young people in the UK, as MailOnline reports.
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