Connect with others who understand.

sign up log in
About MyMSTeam
MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS
NEWS

Epstein-Barr Could Be the ‘Leading Cause’ of MS — A Discovery That May Lead to a Cure, Study Says

Posted on January 14, 2022
Article written by
Torrey Kim

  • A new study of more than 10 million people found that the risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS) rose by 32 times following infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).
  • Researchers could not find any other explanation for MS development in these individuals, noting that EBV could therefore be “the leading cause of MS.”
  • The study authors suggest that targeting EBV in the future could be key to finding a cure for MS.

Scientists have long suspected that a link exists between the Epstein-Barr virus and the development of multiple sclerosis. Researchers behind a new study believe they have found the most definitive evidence so far that identifies EBV as the main trigger of MS.

Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health analyzed data from more than 10 million members of the U.S. military for the study, published Jan. 13 in the journal Science. They reviewed participants’ medical records over 20 years to evaluate whether a link existed between EBV and MS, and found a 32-fold higher MS risk following infection with EBV. The study authors were not able to identify any other explanation for MS development among study participants, suggesting Epstein-Barr as “the leading cause of MS,” they wrote.

EBV can cause mononoculosis — a common disease among teenagers — and no vaccine currently exists to prevent infection with Epstein-Barr. However, researchers believe that finding a way to curb EBV infection could be the key to eliminating MS.

“The extremely low MS risk in EBV-negative individuals suggests that by far most MS cases are caused by EBV and could thus potentially be prevented by a suitable vaccine,” the study authors wrote.

Watch MS expert Dr. Michael Kornberg discuss if it's possible to prevent the progression of multiple sclerosis.

It’s important to note that not everyone with EBV will go on to develop MS. In fact, about 95 percent of people in the world are infected with Epstein-Barr at some point in their lives. But fewer than 3 million people worldwide have MS, which means multiple sclerosis affects less than 0.04 percent of the world’s population. Since the majority of study participants who developed MS had also been infected with EBV, the study authors believe their findings should bolster current research into preventing EBV spread in future populations.

“This is a big step because it suggests that most MS cases could be prevented by stopping EBV infection, and that targeting EBV could lead to the discovery of a cure for MS,” said senior author Dr. Alberto Ascherio in a statement about the study.

“Currently there is no way to effectively prevent or treat EBV infection, but an EBV vaccine or targeting the virus with EBV-specific antiviral drugs could ultimately prevent or cure MS,” Dr. Ascherio said.

Torrey Kim is the managing editor at MyHealthTeams and has over a decade of experience writing about medical conditions. Learn more about her here.

Recent news

Multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms can vary from one person to the next, and even from one day to...
Posted 01/17/2022

Poll Results: The Top 6 Most Common Symptoms Shared by MyMSTeam Members

Multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms can vary from one person to the next, and even from one day to...
Posted 01/17/2022
A recent study found that a variety of physical activities, such as aerobic, strength, balance,...
Posted 01/12/2022

Combined Types of Exercise Can Effectively Reduce MS-Related Fatigue

A recent study found that a variety of physical activities, such as aerobic, strength, balance,...
Posted 01/12/2022
Fatigue is among the most frequently occurring symptoms affecting people with multiple sclerosis...
Posted 01/11/2022

Neurologist Shares 10 Ways To Fight MS Fatigue

Fatigue is among the most frequently occurring symptoms affecting people with multiple sclerosis...
Posted 01/11/2022
Although the calendar has turned to 2022, MyMSTeam is taking a look back at the news stories...
Posted 01/07/2022

The Most Popular News Stories on MyMSTeam

Although the calendar has turned to 2022, MyMSTeam is taking a look back at the news stories...
Posted 01/07/2022
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), you may find yourself stuck in a...
Posted 01/05/2022

Truths About Multiple Sclerosis That Nobody Likes To Talk About

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), you may find yourself stuck in a...
Posted 01/05/2022
When news broke earlier this year that actress Selma Blair had gone into remission...
Posted 01/04/2022

3 Facts About Stem Cell Transplantation — the Treatment That Changed Selma Blair’s Life

When news broke earlier this year that actress Selma Blair had gone into remission...
Posted 01/04/2022
As 2021 comes to a close, it’s a good time to look back on all of the news that affected people...
Posted 12/30/2021

MS News That Captured Attention in 2021

As 2021 comes to a close, it’s a good time to look back on all of the news that affected people...
Posted 12/30/2021
Alcohol consumption was linked to a 20 percent reduction in the risk of developing multiple...
Posted 12/29/2021

Drinking Alcohol Is Associated With a Lower Risk of Developing MS, Study Finds

Alcohol consumption was linked to a 20 percent reduction in the risk of developing multiple...
Posted 12/29/2021
We’ve all been there: The to-do list is a mile long, an unrealistic deadline is on the calendar...
Posted 12/28/2021

3 Ways I’ve Managed Overachiever Syndrome While Living With MS

We’ve all been there: The to-do list is a mile long, an unrealistic deadline is on the calendar...
Posted 12/28/2021
Lindsey Holcomb works in fine detail to capture the subtleties of MRI scans in color.(Aaron...
Posted 12/24/2021

Artist Transforms MRI Scans Into Art Via ‘Colors of MS’ Series

Lindsey Holcomb works in fine detail to capture the subtleties of MRI scans in color.(Aaron...
Posted 12/24/2021
MS News

Become a Subscriber

Get the latest news about multiple sclerosis sent to your inbox.

Not now, thanks

Privacy policy
MS News

Thank you for signing up.

Want more content, community, and support from others living with MS?

Join MyMSTeam

close