FOR the first time we have an answer to what Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) may be doing in the brains of people with multiple sclerosis. RNA from the virus could be triggering the inflammation of nerve tissue characteristic of the disease.
EBV is present in almost all people with MS, and having glandular fever, caused by the virus, is known to increase the risk of developing MS.
To investigate further, Ute-Christiane Meier at Queen Mary University of London and her colleagues performed a post-mortem analysis of the brains of people with and without MS. They detected EBV in damaged areas of the MS brains. Antibody tests showed that the virus hadn't been actively spreading, but it had released small RNA molecules into nearby areas. Further studies showed this RNA could activate the immune system, triggering inflammation, which could damage nerve cells and cause the symptoms of MS ( Neurology , DOI: 10.1212/wnl.0b013e31823ed057 ).
"If we can pinpoint EBV as a trigger, it's possible that we could potentially prevent the condition by treating the virus," says Meier.