Link Between Virus And MS Key For Future MS Treatments

Researchers may have found some proof regarding the link between virus and multiple sclerosis. Researchers at Queen Mary, University of London have shown in a study just how a particular virus can trick the immune system into triggering inflammation that can cause damage to the nerve cells in the brain which is typically what happens in MS. The findings of the research are published in the journal Neurology.

Previous research studies have suggested that there is a link between the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and MS. But this remained inconclusive since researchers have so far not been able to substantiate the link through further studies. But the new study has shown that the virus is involved in MS in a more sophisticated and subtle manner than previously believed.

The new study involved a post mortem examination of the brains of MS patients. The researchers looked into the areas where the most recent neurological damage occurred. According to Dr. Ute-Christiane Meier, lead author of the study and part of Barts and the London Medical School which is also part of Queen Mary, “EBV is quite a clever virus; when it’s not growing and spreading it can hide away in our immune cells. In this study we used a different technique which allowed us to detect the virus in the brains of some people affected by MS, even when it was hiding away in the cells.”

During the study, the researchers were able to find out that the said virus, although not showing any signs of actively spreading, was releasing a chemical signal into nearby areas of the brain. This chemical signal, which is made up of small RNA molecules, was triggering the body’s immune system to cause inflammation to take place. This results into damaged nerve cells in the brain, leading to MS symptoms.

“We have to be careful and have to study more MS brains but this is potentially very exciting research. Now we understand how EBV gets smuggled into the brain by cells of the immune system and that it is found at the crime scene, right where the attack on our nervous system occurs. Now we know this, we may have a number of new ways of treating or even preventing the disease,” Dr. Meier added.

One of the potential treatments that may be eyed a s a result of the findings is the use of Rituximab, a cancer treatment drug which is known also to kill the cells of the immune system where the virus may hide. This drug is currently undergoing trial for treating MS. Another potential MS treatment being studied further is the use of anti-viral medications, which is being prepared for clinical trials by the researchers at Queen Mary. “If we can pinpoint EBV as a trigger, it’s possible that we could alter the course of MS or potentially even prevent the condition by treating the virus,” Dr. Meier further stated.

Source: Medical News Today

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