Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Researchers find further evidence linking Epstein-Barr virus and risk of multiple sclerosis

First long-term study among individuals not infected with EBV suggests EBV infection likely to be a cause of MS, not a consequence

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, and a team of collaborators have observed for the first time that the risk of multiple sclerosis (MS) increases by many folds following infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).

This finding implicates EBV as a contributory cause to multiple sclerosis. The study appears in an advance online edition of the journal Annals of Neurology and will appear in a later print edition.

Hundred of thousands of individuals not infected with EBV were followed up for several years through repeated blood samples collections. Researchers were then able to determine the time when individuals developed an EBV infection and its relation to MS onset. "The recruitment of individuals before they were infected with EBV and following up with them for several years is the critical methodological aspect that makes this study qualitatively different from all previous work," said Alberto Ascherio, senior author of the study and professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

MS is a chronic degenerative disease of the central nervous system. Women are more likely than men to get the disease and it is the most common neurologically disabling disease in young adults. Although genetic predisposition plays an important role in determining susceptibility, past studies have shown that environmental factors are equally important.

EBV is a herpes virus and one of the most common human viruses worldwide. Infection in early childhood is common and usually asymptomatic. Late age at infection, however, often causes infectious mononucleosis. In the U.S., upwards of 95% of adults are infected with the virus, but free of symptoms. EBV has been associated with some types of cancer and can cause serious complications when the immune system is suppressed, for example, in transplant recipients. There is no effective treatment for EBV.

This is the first study based on the longitudinal follow-up of several thousand individuals who were not infected with EBV at the time of recruitment. The study population was made up of active-duty US Army, Navy, and Marines personnel who have at least one blood sample in the Department of Defense Serum Repository. The electronic databases of the Physical Disability Agencies of the US Army and Navy were then searched for individuals whose records indicated a possible diagnosis of MS reported between 1992 and 2004.

The researchers selected 305 individuals diagnosed with MS and who had blood specimens collected before the date of their diagnosis. Two controls for each case were then selected from the serum database and matched by branch of service, sex, date of blood collection, and age at time of blood collection.

The study found that MS risk is extremely low among individuals not infected with EBV, but it increases sharply in the same individuals following EBV infection.

"The observation that MS occurred only after EBV is a big step forward," said Alberto Ascherio. "Until now we knew that virtually all MS patients are infected with EBV, but we could not exclude two non-causal explanations for this finding: that EBV infection is a consequence rather than a cause of MS, and that individuals who are EBV negative could be genetically resistant to MS. Both of these explanations are inconsistent with the present findings," said Ascherio.

"The evidence is now sufficiently compelling to justify the allocation of more resources to the development of interventions targeting EBV infection, or the immune response to EBV infection, as these may contribute to MS prevention," he said.

The study was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

"Primary Infection with the Epstein-Barr Virus and Risk of Multiple Sclerosis," Lynn I. Levin, Kassandra L. Munger, Eilis J. O'Reilly, Kerstin I. Falk, Alberto Ascherio, Annals of Neurology, online January 20, 2010

Harvard School of Public Health ( ) is dedicated to advancing the public's health through learning, discovery, and communication. More than 400 faculty members are engaged in teaching and training the 1,000-plus student body in a broad spectrum of disciplines crucial to the health and well being of individuals and populations around the world. Programs and projects range from the molecular biology of AIDS vaccines to the epidemiology of cancer; from risk analysis to violence prevention; from maternal and children's health to quality of care measurement; from health care management to international health and human rights.

Todd Datz | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Strong, steady forces at work during cell division
20.10.2016 | University of Massachusetts at Amherst

nachricht Disturbance wanted
20.10.2016 | Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Innovative technique for shaping light could solve bandwidth crunch

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Finding the lightest superdeformed triaxial atomic nucleus

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

NASA's MAVEN mission observes ups and downs of water escape from Mars

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>