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News Article

Epstein-Barr Virus Increases Risk of Multiple Sclerosis

By Miriam Bello | Fri, 01/14/2022 - 18:00

Researchers at Harvard University found a strong link between the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and multiple sclerosis. The results suggest that Epstein-Barr multiplies the risk of suffering from multiple sclerosis by 32.

The study analyzed the data of over 10 million military staff obtained from the US Army, which tests staff for the AIDS virus at the time of admission and every two years, storing the blood serum samples. Researchers found less than 1,000 people were diagnosed with multiple sclerosis during their military service and in 801 of the cases, adequate samples were kept for retesting. The investigation revealed that 800 of the 801 soldiers had been in contact with the EBV, with 97 percent of them being infected after enlisting.

The EBV, a member of the herpes virus family, is one of the most common human viruses. Most people get infected with EBV at some point in their lives as it spreads most commonly through bodily fluids, primarily saliva. EBV had been previously linked to mononucleosis and, to a lesser extent, Burkitt lymphoma, certain B-cell tumors in immunocompromised patients, some forms of Hodgkin lymphoma, nasopharyngeal carcinoma and some gastric cancers.

Multiple sclerosis is a progressive neurodegenerative disease of the central nervous system, which causes loss of motor skills and cognitive abilities. It is considered one of the main causes of disability in young adults since it causes a significant reduction in their ability to walk. It affects 2.5 million people in the world, mainly women between the ages of 20 and 40. In Mexico, it is estimated that between 11 and 20 out of every 100,000 individuals suffer from multiple sclerosis.

With this novel finding researchers hope to improve treatment development for multiple sclerosis but, most importantly, to find ways to prevent it from developing due to EBV.

In Mexico, multiple sclerosis has a topic of study for many pharmaceutical companies such as Merck Group. “Merck began two multiple sclerosis studies in Mexico at the end of 2021. Through it, we want to achieve a better view of the benefits for specific patient groups,” told MBN Orlando Aguirre, Director of Government Sales, Market Access and Pricing, Merck Group. Merck’s Mavenclad was included in the public healthcare system for the treatment of multiple sclerosis, increasing its accessibility for Mexican patients.

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst