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Acta Neurol Scand. 2015 Feb;131(2):69-79. doi: 10.1111/ane.12294. Epub 2014 Sep 11.

Targeting Epstein-Barr virus infection as an intervention against multiple sclerosis.

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Section of Clinical Neuroscience and Rehabilitation, Institution of Neuroscience and Physiology, the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden.


We here review contemporary data on genetic and environmental risk factors, particularly Epstein-Barr virus infection, for multiple sclerosis. There is an important immunogenetic etiological factor for multiple sclerosis. However, a general assumption is that immune defense genes are activated by the environment, basically by infections. We contend that the relationship between infectious mononucleosis and multiple sclerosis cannot be completely explained by genetics and inverse causality. Epstein-Barr infection as indicated by positive serology is an obligatory precondition for multiple sclerosis, which is a stronger attribute than a risk factor only. Data on events in the early pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis are cumulating from bio-banks with presymptomatic specimens, but there is only little information from the critical age when Epstein-Barr infection including infectious mononucleosis is acquired, nor on the detailed immunological consequences of this infection in individuals with and without multiple sclerosis. We discuss how focused bio-banking may elaborate a rationale for the development of treatment or vaccination against Epstein-Barr virus infection. A cohort in which intervention against Epstein-Barr infections was performed should be the object of neurological follow-up.


Epstein-Barr virus; Multiple sclerosis; bio-banks; neuroepidemiology; risk factors; vaccination

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