Infection with the Epstein-Barr virus dramatically raised the risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a newly-published paper in Science. People infected with the virus, which causes mononucleosis, had a 32-fold higher chance of developing MS. Samples were pulled from the Department of Defense Serum Repository, which houses 62 million samples taken from 10 million service members. The researchers say their data points to viral-mediated brain inflammation as a culprit underlying the diseases.
According to Megan Molteni, “The Harvard team didn’t just look for signs of the EBV virus itself or antibodies against it. They also went fishing for something called neurofilament light chain, or NfL. When under attack, neurons shed these threadlike pieces of themselves, and some of them wash into the cerebrospinal fluid and out into the bloodstream. Studies have shown that a rise in NfL levels precedes onset of MS by a couple of years. The new research found this marker of neurodegeneration didn’t increase until after infection. That argues against reverse pathology — where MS impacts the immune system to make it more susceptible to EBV infection.”
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(Source: Stat News, January 13th, 2022)