Epstein-Barr Virus Linked To MS

Epstein Barr Virus The Epstein Barr virus is known to infect around 95 percent of the world population but usually lies in dormant state. In cases when the Epstein Barr virus is reactivated, it can cause tumors to grow. The said virus has long been closely associated with multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases. But it is only now that researchers have been able to provide a link to support such claims.

Researchers from the Instituto Superiore di Sanita in Rome, Italy have found the abnormal accumulation of EBV infected B lymphocytes in the brain lesions of MS patients. The same findings were also made for pathological tissues from patients of other autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis are developed as a result of the body’s immune system mounting an attack on otherwise healthy tissues. In the case of MS, immune cells in the body try to attack myelin sheath in the central nervous system that acts as insulation of the nerve cells.

Many medical experts have long been suspecting viruses as possible triggers for autoimmune diseases because of their ability to interfere with the body’s immune system. In the case of EBV, it has the ability to hide itself in a particular population of immune cells, notably the B lymphocytes.

Francesca Aloisi and her team of researchers have shown that EBV present in the brain lesions of MS patients get to the central nervous system through the B lymphocytes which act as Trojan horses for the virus. The team has also shown that the infected B lymphocytes become the target of the immune attack from the body, resulting in inflammation and tissue destruction.

The findings provides a step forward for researchers in better understanding the mechanisms behind the development of autoimmune diseases. One of the challenges ahead for researchers is by finding ways to prevent or deal with EBV infection that will also have a beneficial impact on autoimmune diseases.


Source: Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Immunologie e.V./German Society for Immunology. "Linking Epstein-Barr Virus To Multiple Sclerosis." ScienceDaily 15 September 2009. 29 September 2009


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