The link between the disease and the Epstein-Barr virus was already known, but is now well-documented enough to clear the way to potential treatments.
A group of researchers from the prestigious Harvard School of Public Health in the United States has managed to accurately identify the virus that causes multiple sclerosis, a terrible neurodegenerative disease that cannot be cured now. We hope that this crucial step will make it possible to address the development of a real treatment.
Professor Björnevik’s team was able to confirm the exact identity of the culprit: it is HHV-4, better known as the Epstein-Barr virus (web). It is a virus already known for its role in many diseases; It is known to cause some relatively mild illnesses such as mononucleosis. But it is also the cause of life-threatening emergencies such as Burkitt’s lymphoma – the most aggressive form of cancer ever documented in humans.
For several years, research has also suspected the presence of a The link between EBV and multiple sclerosis. For example, several studies have already established that advertising mononucleosis is a risk factor. The link is there, it’s a fact; But it still needs Statistical proof of associationAnd it is now done.
very big study
To achieve this, the researchers were able to rely on a huge database Including millions of American soldiers. For any statistician or public health researcher, this is an absolutely exceptional goldmine. In fact, the robustness of these large-scale studies depends largely on the quantity and quality of available data. and with more 10 million soldiers who all benefited Regular and strictly regulated blood tests, Harvard researchers could hardly have hoped for better.
Of all these soldiers, 955 cases of multiple sclerosis were identified. Not surprisingly, all but one of them presented specific antibodies that testify to the passage of EBV. By pooling all the data at their disposal, the researchers determined that Epstein-Barr doubles the risk of being declared multiple sclerosis by 32. So there is no longer any doubt: EBV thus plays a major role in the emergence of this disease.
What we already know is that it’s a file autoimmune disease; The virus causes certain factors of the immune response to attack the myelin sheath. Very briefly, the latter is a structure that covers the axons (“arms”) of neurons. It is necessary both protection, but also to ensure the rapid and reliable transmission of the electrical signal in the nervous system. It is the deterioration of this sheath by the immune system that causes a whole host of serious neurological disorders.
Towards an Epstein-Barr vaccine?
But the beginning of the mechanism is still very mysterious. The research team remains very cautious at this level. The data clearly shows that not all EBV infections cause multiple sclerosis; The virus is very common, infecting 90-95% of adults. But fortunately, multiple sclerosis is less common. This means that there must be other factors at play.
From now on, the challenge will be to understand how these external genetic or environmental factors (smoking, diet, etc.) Ultimately, the goal is to produce a cure for multiple sclerosis. But the simplest thing might even be to get the rug out from under it by eliminating the virus that causes it. The researchers believe that this work could serve as the basis for a vaccine against Epstein-Barr. This would make it possible to get rid of diseases such as mononucleosis, but also to get rid of multiple sclerosis according to this work. Moderna and Pfizer have already announced studies on this topic; If the results are conclusive, the first results of these clinical trials could change the lives of millions of patients.