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Multiple sclerosis that affects 2.8 million people worldwide is caused by a virus that is the source of 'kissing disease': Study


BOSTON: Multiple sclerosis, a progressive disease that affects 2.8 million people worldwide and for which there is no definitive cure, is likely caused by infection with the Epstein-Barr virus, according to a study led by Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health researchers.

Epstein-Barr is the virus that causes mononucleosis. It's also called the "kissing disease" because of one way you can spread (the virus is found in saliva) it to someone else. Mononucleosis is a viral infection that causes a sore throat and fever and often happens in teens and young adults. It goes away on its own after a few weeks of rest.

“The hypothesis that EBV causes MS has been investigated by our group and others for several years, but this is the first study providing compelling evidence of causality,” said Alberto Ascherio, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard Chan School and senior author of the study.

“This is a big step because it suggests that most MS cases could be prevented by stopping EBV infection, and that targeting EBV could lead to the discovery of a cure for MS.”

“Currently there is no way to effectively prevent or treat EBV infection, but an EBV vaccine or targeting the virus with EBV-specific antiviral drugs could ultimately prevent or cure MS,” The Harvard Gazette quoted Ascherio as saying.

Nicole Rura, on The Harvard Gazette website, informed that the findings were published online in Science on Thursday.

Other Harvard Chan School researchers who contributed to this study include Kjetil Bjornevik, Marianna Cortese, Michael Mina, and Kassandra Munger.