Faculty of Medicine

5 quick questions about Epstein-Barr-virus and Multiple Sclerosis

Honorary Doctor Alberto Ascherio led the research that demonstrated a connection between the Epstein-Barr virus and Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Here he answers five key questions about this topic.

Alberto Ascherio
Thor Brødreskift

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– What do we know about the connection between the Epstein-Barr virus and MS?

– We know that the Epstein-Barr virus is the main cause of MS. We also know that if we can somehow prevent the viral infection, we can thereby prevent the majority, or perhaps nearly all, cases of Multiple Sclerosis.

– How did this conclusion come about?

– We were able to demonstrate that people who are not infected with the Epstein-Barr virus do not get MS. It took over 20 years of research on over 10 million people over several years. Young adults who are not infected with the virus do not get MS.

– Why is this the case?

– The mechanisms are not fully understood. The most important question now is whether we can target the virus in people who already have MS to cure the disease. There is currently ongoing work to try to find answers to this.

– What kind of research is needed to get more answers?

– Ideally, a clinical, randomized study would be conducted to see if antiviral drugs have an effect when we attempt to target the virus directly.

– How close are we to get a vaccine to prevent MS?

– There is currently a lot of omgoing research on a possible vaccine that can prevent EBV infection. If we had a vaccine that could completely prevent EBV, we would also be able to eliminate MS. A vaccine that reduces the severity of the infection, like the COVID-19 vaccines, but does not prevent the virus, is also likely to reduce the risk of MS.