Kissing disease could be the cause of multiple sclerosis

The Epstein-Barr virus, which causes what is commonly known as “kissing disease,” can be one of the main causes of multiple sclerosis.

According to a new study published in Science, which analyzed data from 10 million American soldiers, multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease whose cause is unknown, could be a complication of infection with the Epstein-Barr virus.

The study analyzed blood samples from military recruits over a 20-year period. Of the 10 million soldiers who participated in the study, 955 were diagnosed with multiple sclerosis during their service. With these data, Harvard University researcher Kjetil Bjornevik and his team consider the hypothesis that the disease may be related to the virus in question.

The researchers in charge of the study indicate that one of the most effective treatments for multiple sclerosis today is anti-CD20 monoclonal antibodies. Thanks to this new discovery, the antibodies could be directed directly against the Epstein-Barr virus, which could have great advantages for the treatment of the disease.

The Epstein-Barr virus is a herpesvirus and one of the most common in humans. It usually affects adolescence and then remains latent in B cells throughout life like the rest of herpesviruses.

Multiple sclerosis occurs when a person’s immune system is disrupted and attacks the myelin sheaths that insulate nerve fibers in the spinal cord and brain. People who suffer from the disease develop vision problems, pain, weakness and mobility problems among other symptoms. These appear and disappear in the form of outbreaks, but usually the disease worsens over time, considerably reducing the quality of life of those who suffer from it.

To date there is no cure for the disease and scientists believe that it is caused by a combination of genetics (the disease is often hereditary) with external triggers such as viruses.

Despite the relevance of the study for the diagnosis and treatment of multiple sclerosis, the researchers indicate that the majority of people infected with this virus will never develop the disease.

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