Low Sunlight And A Common Virus May Increase MS Risk

A study from the United Kingdom suggests that people with a history of having a common virus known as mononucleosis and exposed to only low levels of sunlight may have a greater risk of developing multiple sclerosis. The findings of the research is published in the April 19 print issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Infectious mononucleosis is a disease that is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. This is a very common virus that people may be afflicted with but do not usually show any visible symptoms. But for those who contracted the virus during their teens and in adulthood, it usually leads to infectious mononucleosis. The researchers tried to determine whether the said virus, coupled with low sunlight levels, may actually affect the incidence of MS in people.

For the said study, the researchers checked all hospital admissions in National Health Service hospitals in England for a period of seven years. During the investigation, the researchers were able to identify 56,681 cases of MS and 14,621 cases of infectious mononucleosis. In addition, the researchers also looked into NASA data on ultraviolet intensity in England during the same period.

The findings of the said study showed that both low exposure to sunlight and mononucleosis together explained 72 percent of the variance when it comes to the occurrence of MS in the UK. Low sun exposure alone was seen in 61 percent of the MS cases.

According to George C. Ebers, MD from the University of Oxford in the UK and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, “It’s possible that vitamin D deficiency may lead to an abnormal response to the Epstein-Barr virus.” Dr. Ebers also noted that the low sunlight exposure of spring was the period most associated with MS risk.

“Lower levels of UVB in the spring season correspond with peak risk of MS by birth month. More research should be done on whether increasing UVB exposure or using vitamin D supplements and possible treatments or vaccines for the Epstein-Barr virus could lead to fewer cases of MS,” Dr. Ebers further added.

Source: American Academy of Neurology (2011, April 19). Common virus plus low sunlight exposure may increase risk of multiple sclerosis. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 3, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110418161658.htm

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