Science has long believed there to be a connection between the Epstein Barr Virus and Multiple Sclerosis, but it has been difficult to determine that exact connection. While you are probably at least familiar with MS, you may not know much about Epstein Barr, or EBV, so let’s dive a little deeper into EBV first.
What is the Epstein Barr Virus?
EBV is one of the most common human viruses. It is transmitted through saliva, and most people pick it up when they are children. They show either no symptoms or minor symptoms similar to the common cold. In teenagers and young adults, EBV can be slightly more concerning, causing a young person to fall ill for two to four weeks. It can also develop into mononucleosis, or mono commonly called the “kissing disease.” Once EBV enters your system, it is there to stay. The CDC provides more in-depth information about Epstein Barr here.
Epstein Barr and MS
Recent research has indicated that those diagnosed with mono during childhood were nearly twice likely to develop MS as they get older. For those who have mono as a teenager, the likelihood of developing MS is three times higher than that. Typically, those with MS had much more severe symptoms of mono than those who do not develop MS. So science has always known an Epstein Barr and MS connection exists.
Can Epstein Barr Cause MS?
While science is not quite ready to say Epstein Barr definitively causes MS, research published as recently as January of this year highly suggests that may be the case. In these most recent studies, researchers used blood tests to determine that, “the risk of multiple sclerosis increased 32-fold after infection with Epstein Barr but not after infection with other viruses.” The research leads to the conclusion that if you don’t have EBV, you cannot get MS.
Multiple sclerosis is rare but at the moment incurable. It is a disease in which the immune system eats away at the protective covering over nerves. The resulting nerve damage causes interruptions in the communication between the brain and body. Symptoms, which include loss of vision, pain, fatigue, and loss of coordination can range from mild to severe and chronic. With this in mind, it goes almost without saying that determining the cause of MS would go a long way to treating, curing, and potentially eradicating this awful disease.
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In conclusion, we know there is an important and perhaps even crucial connection between the Epstein Barr Virus and MS. Does this mean that if you had mono as a child or teen then you are definitely doomed to suffer from MS? No, it does not. But determining the connection can only aid science in understanding both diseases and working towards prevention and cures.