TASS. Neurophysiologists have received the first unequivocal evidence that multiple sclerosis develops mainly due to the penetration of the Epstein-Barr virus into human brain tissue. The description of the study was published in the scientific journal Science .
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease of the nervous system, in which cells of the immune system begin to attack the sheath of nerve fibers, the so-called myelin. As a result, the nerves begin to conduct the signal worse and “short out”, which initially leads to mild numbness of the limbs, and as the disease progresses, it can cause paralysis, blindness and death. The reasons for its development are still unknown.
Asherio and his colleagues have been testing a hypothesis for several years that links the development of multiple sclerosis to the fact that its carriers survived a viral infection in the recent past. The role of such a pathogen, in particular, is most often considered the Epstein-Barr virus, which can penetrate neurons and cells of the immune system.
Unlike many other viruses, the Epstein-Barr virus does not kill infected cells, but simply disrupts their vital functions. As scientists suggest, these disorders lead to the development of many diseases of an unknown nature, including chronic fatigue syndrome, mononucleosis and multiple sclerosis.
Ascherio and his colleagues tested this assumption by analyzing data from more than 10 million people who served in the US military in the past few decades. They all had regular blood tests and screening for multiple sclerosis, allowing scientists to compare how often they contracted the Epstein-Barr virus and began to have difficulty controlling their limbs.
It turned out that after one or another volunteer became infected with the Epstein-Barr virus, the likelihood of multiple sclerosis increased by about 32 times. In addition, the scientists found that ex-military exposure to the virus was accompanied by a spike in the concentration of the NEFL protein, one of the first signs of the development of multiple sclerosis.
All this, according to Ascherio and his colleagues, speaks in favor of the fact that infection with the Epstein-Barr virus is the main cause of the development of multiple sclerosis. Follow-up observations and experiments on animals, as scientists hope, will help to unravel the mechanism of the development of the disease and understand how it can be prevented.