Fascinating new research into the link between EBV (Epstein Barr Virus) and MS (Multiple Sclerosis) highlights the issues in understanding what causes the disease (https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abj8222).

The new research shows a strong correlation between those having MS and prior exposure to EBV.  They report that it is very rare to develop MS if you don’t have a prior EBV infection.

Another study  (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-022-04432-7) has found that our immune system’s ability to attack EBV by recognising one of the proteins (called EBNA1) in the virus can, in some cases, lead the B cells to start attacking a different protein (called GlialCAM) in the myelin sheaths of our nervous system.  This damage is responsible for the symptoms of MS.

It would be reasonable to think based on these studies that EBV is the cause of MS, but as the majority of people infected with EBV do not go on to develop MS, the simple cause and effect model needs some nuance.

More research is needed to identify why some people go on to develop MS after infection but the majority don’t.

Already studies have identified other factors that might provide the answers – these include where you live, the amount of sunlight you’re exposed to and even childhood trauma (https://jnnp.bmj.com/content/early/2022/03/08/jnnp-2021-328700), which all have some correlation with the development of the disease.

This opens up much bigger conversations about the multifactorial nature of illness and that we need to consider the wider picture if we are to find solutions that help to eradicate these debilitating illnesses.

If you have any questions, please get in touch.