Study Finds Link Between Shingles And Elevated MS Risk

Researchers from Taiwan have found out that people who had a shingles or herpes zoster attack may have a significantly higher risk of MS within a year. The findings of the said study was published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

MS is an autoimmune disease that leads to inflammation and damage to the spinal cord and the brain as the body’s own immune cells attack the central nervous system. Possible causes considered that might trigger said inflammation include environmental, genetic and viral factors. One virus that has been linked to MS is the varicella zoster virus which causes herpes zoster.

The study, which was conducted by researchers from Taipei Medical University in Taiwan, headed by Herng-Ching Lin, PhD, made use of the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database. The research team tracked 315,550 adults with herpes zoster along with a control group of 946,650 other subjects. All were evaluated for any occurrence of MS during a period of one year. The control group was randomly selected who had not been diagnosed with herpes zoster and other viral diseases.

The findings of the research team showed that the group with herpes zoster were at 3.96 times higher risk of developing MS than the control group. But the researchers also noted that, although of higher risk, the frequency of MS was still low. The study also noted that there is an average interval of 100 days between a herpes zoster infection and an occurrence of MS.

The research team also indicated that the subjects were predominantly composed of Han Chinese adults. Considering the lower prevalence of MS among Asians compared to Western populations, the findings may not be indicative that the same results may be similar to other populations. But the scale of the study, which included 1.26 million sampled subjects, may provide a strong epidemiological evidence of the possible role of herpes zoster in the development of MS in people.


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