(Washington) The cause of multiple sclerosis is likely to be the Epstein-Barr virus, according to a new study by US researchers, who for the first time have identified a person responsible for this autoimmune disease.
Posted at 6:15pm
This discovery raises hope that a future treatment can be developed, making it possible to treat this disease that affects approximately 2.8 million people in the world.
About 95% of adults are infected with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which can also cause other diseases, such as mononucleosis.
The study, published this week in the prestigious journal Science, explains that this virus is essential for the development of multiple sclerosis, even if not all people with the disease develop the disease.
The hypothesis has been studied for several years, but it is difficult to prove it, especially because this virus is very common, and symptoms of the disease begin only about ten years after infection.
It is “the first study to provide convincing evidence of causation,” said Alberto Acchirio, lead author and professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.
“This is an important step because it indicates that most cases of multiple sclerosis can be prevented by stopping infection with the Epstein-Barr virus,” he added in a statement. Targeting this virus may lead to a cure. »
Over the course of 20 years, researchers have followed more than 10 million young men enlisted in the US military, of whom 955 were diagnosed with multiple sclerosis while serving.
According to this work, the risk of developing multiple sclerosis increased 32 times after infection with the Epstein-Barr virus, but remained unchanged after infection with other viruses.
According to researchers at Stanford University, who published a commentary on the study in the journal ScienceOther factors, for example genetics, can play a role in whether or not the disease develops.
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). It causes a malfunction in the immune system that attacks myelin, the sheath used to protect nerve fibers.
The disease develops through ‘attacks’, is highly variable from patient to patient, but can lead to sequelae, and is a common cause of disability in young people.
The US company Moderna announced last week that it had begun clinical trials in humans of a vaccine against the Epstein-Barr virus.
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