Further investigating the link between MS and Epstein-Barr

Epstein-Barr virus EBV, a herpes virus which causes infectious mononucleosis and Burkitt's lymphoma on colorful background. 3D illustration

March 27, 2024—People living with multiple sclerosis (MS) had a stronger immune response to Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) than those without MS—but their response did not follow a specific pattern that could help highlight the disease’s origins, according to a new study led by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study was published on March 18 in JAMA Neurology. Co-authors included first author Marianna Cortese, senior research scientist in the Department of Nutrition; Kjetil Bjornevik, assistant professor of epidemiology and nutrition; and Alberto Ascherio, professor of epidemiology and nutrition.

To investigate the mechanisms underlying the link between MS and EBV, the researchers assessed the antibody responses to 66 EBV peptides among 30 individuals with MS and 30 individuals without. The study found that the immune response to EBV among the individuals with MS was stronger, but that it wasn’t specific.

“In other words, there is no strong evidence that there is a single EBV peptide that stands out as being selectively targeted in individuals with MS and could explain why they developed the disease,” said Cortese in a March 19 MedicalResearch.com article about the study.

The researchers noted that the study’s small sample size is a limitation, and that the findings should be confirmed by additional, larger investigations.

“Larger studies may be needed to identify subsets of patients that react to specific EBV proteins, if these exist,” Cortese said. “Other mechanisms need to be considered and investigated to understand how EBV causes MS, which will open avenues for prevention and treatment.”

Read the MedicalResearch.com article: MS: Harvard Chan Study Further Identified Serologic Response to Epstein-Barr Virus

Image: iStock/Dr_Microbe