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Research Suggests That Epstein-Barr Virus Increases Multiple Sclerosis Risk

Jan 04, 2023 By Madison Evans

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic autoimmune illness that affects the central nervous system. Symptoms of multiple sclerosis include weakness in the muscles, trouble with coordination and balance, and visual impairments. Research shows that a mix of genetic and environmental variables may have a role in developing multiple sclerosis (MS). However, the specific origin of the disease is not completely known. Infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a common virus that is most well-known for causing infectious mononucleosis, is one of the probable environmental factors that might cause infectious mononucleosis. The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) has been linked to the development of multiple sclerosis (MS) in several different research studies; however, it is not known whether EBV infection directly causes the disease or whether it is simply a marker for some other factor that increases the risk of developing MS.

What Causes Multiple Sclerosis?

Researchers had previously hypothesized that EBV is one of the primary risk factors for developing multiple sclerosis (MS); nevertheless, several other things might trigger the disease. Multiple sclerosis is caused by "a cocktail of environmental stimuli in a genetically vulnerable host," said Dr. Claire S. Riley, assistant neurologist faculty at Columbia University Medical Center as well as clinical head of the Multiple Sclerosis Center, in an article posted in Health."In addition to EBV, research has identified several other risk factors for multiple sclerosis, some of which include the following:

  • Smoking
  • Low sun exposure
  • Pregnancy
  • Obesity in children

What Happened During the Study?

In conjunction with the United States Armed Forces, the study team analyzed data gleaned from blood samples from over 10 million service members now serving in active duty positions. The data was gathered by the researchers between the years 1993 and 2013. The samples, which were leftover from HIV blood tests conducted every two years on active-duty military personnel, were utilized to determine EBV status and the relationship between EBV infection and the development of MS. Researchers found 955 instances of multiple sclerosis among the active-duty population of 10 million people.

What Does the Study Say About the Link Between EBV and MS?

In general, the risk of multiple sclerosis rose by a factor of 32 following infection with EBV, but it did not alter after exposure to other viruses like cytomegalovirus (CMV). The researchers also discovered that the initial EBV-positive blood sample and the beginning of multiple sclerosis were separated by a median of five years. According to scientists, the data cannot be explained by any other known risk factor. Hence they hypothesized that EBV is the primary component in the development of multiple sclerosis. Alberto Ascherio, MD, DrPH, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard T.H.

Does this mean that you'll get MS if you've had EBV?

No, it just indicates that those exposed to EBV may be at a greater risk of acquiring multiple sclerosis than those who have not. You may need to be made aware of whether or not you have been exposed to EBV. EBV may produce infectious mononucleosis at times, but at other times it might seem like a short sickness similar to a cold or the flu. Both of these outcomes are possible. Professors in the Department of Medicine at Stanford University, William H. Robinson, MD, Ph.D. and Lawrence Steinman, MD, explained that EBV infection is extremely common and that nearly everyone will get it at some point. Their explanation was included in an article that was also published in Science. However, only a tiny percentage of those persons will eventually acquire MS. That indicates the presence of additional risk factors is required for the development of multiple sclerosis.


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory illness that affects the central nervous system. A recent study shows that infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which causes shingles, may be connected to the development of MS. Even though there is evidence that infection with EBV is associated with the development of multiple sclerosis (MS), it is still unclear whether or not EBV infection causes the illness or if it is only a marker for some other factor that enhances the chance of getting MS. A deeper understanding of the association between EBV and MS, as well as the identification of possible therapies for the condition, requires the completion of more study. See a healthcare practitioner if you are worried about your risk of acquiring multiple sclerosis (MS) or if you have been diagnosed with the condition to receive further information and assistance on the many treatment choices.

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