New virus link could lead to cure

Exciting new studies in the medical community have formed a possible link between a virus and MS. The implications are monumental, suggesting a possibility for prevention of the disease as well as a cure. Scientific research was conducted at the Queen Mary university in London and published in the scientific journal, Neurology. Scientists focused on the Epstein-Barr Virus, previously raised in studies that were inconclusive ,as the trigger for Multiple Sclerosis, a nervous condition that involves inflammation of the nerves in the brain as well as nerve damage. However, in the latest study, more proof has been found that substantiates earlier studies. It is believed that the virus can behave in subtle and invasive ways, whether it is being active or dormant within the nerve cells.

Dr Meier continued: “We have to be careful and have to study more MS brains but this is potentially very exciting research. Now we understand how EBV gets smuggled into the brain by cells of the immune system and that it is found at the crime scene, right where the attack on our nervous system occurs. Now we know this, we may have a number of new ways of treating or even preventing the disease.”

One possibility is the widely-used cancer treatment Rituximab; a drug which is known to kill the cells of the immune system in which the virus hides. It is now being trialed as a treatment for MS.

Another possible approach, using anti-viral treatment, will be tested in clinical trials currently in preparation by Professor Gavin Giovannoni and colleagues, also at Queen Mary.

“If we can pinpoint EBV as a trigger, it’s possible that we could alter the course of MS or potentially even prevent the condition by treating the virus,” Dr Meier added.

“MS so often strikes young women and its unpredictable nature makes it an incredibly difficult disease to live with. We desperately need better ways to tackle the condition.”

Interestingly, the research also hinted that infection with EBV and its action on the immune system could also be playing a role in other brain diseases such as cancer and stroke.

Research was based on studying the brains of victims of MS after death. Scientists were able to pinpoint the presence of the Epstein-Barr virus, even when it was not active but was hidden or dormant in immune cells. Even when not active, the virus caused those cells to send out a chemical message that prompted the immune system into action, attacking nerves in the brain. Results suggest treatment for the virus as a solution.

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