Friday, March 5, 2010

A Step Closer to a Cause?

Since being diagnosed with MS in October 2008, every day I Google "Multiple Sclerosis" news to keep up with the latest happenings in the research community.  Today, one headline and story in particular really struck me.  Here it is:

Researchers find further evidence linking Epstein-Barr virus and risk of multiple sclerosis

First long-term study among individuals not infected with EBV suggests EBV infection likely to be a cause of MS, not a consequence

Boston, MA – Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, and a team of collaborators have observed for the first time that the risk of multiple sclerosis (MS) increases by many folds following infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). This finding implicates EBV as a contributory cause to multiple sclerosis.

This, in my opinion, is very big newsWhy?  Because Epstein-Barr is the virus that causes Mononucleosis, or "the kissing disease".  The Epstein-Barr virus lives dormant in your system forever once infected- it never goes away.  When I was 13 years old, I had mononucleosis.

Here is the part that interests me even further:  95% of Americans between the ages of 35-40 years old have been infected with the Epstein-Barr virus at some point in their lives.  Now, just because you become infected does not necessarily mean you will show any signs of illness, or in some cases it's so mild the person infected simply writes it off as a common cold.  With that said, the majority of people with Epstein-Barr in their system gain adaptive immunity.  This means that while the person lives with the dormant virus in their body forever, their immune system keeps it from ever becoming active again.  Another interesting fact, is that this virus is a member of the family of Herpes viruses that includes Herpes Simplex, which causes "cold sores" on the lips and mouth as well as genital Herpes. Herpes Zoster which causes Chicken Pox and Shingles, is also in this family of viruses as well.

Knowing these facts, it's no wonder 95% of Americans test positive for the Epstein-Barr virus.  But if almost every adult has the virus in their system dormant, then why is it only a fraction of us develop Multiple Sclerosis? Mind you, I am no doctor, nor am I a scientist.  However, I do have a theory of my own.

I look at my health history, and I see a definite link.  As I mentioned earlier, I had mono when I was 13 years old.  I also had chicken pox not once, but twice, which is incredibly rare.  The first time I had chicken pox I was 5 years old and it was very mild, and the second bout of chicken pox came about a year after I had mononucleosis.  Then, when I was 32 years old, I woke up one morning with a nasty case of the Shingles.  It was right around the time I got Shingles that I also started showing clinical signs of Multiple Sclerosis.

One more important fact:  When I was a baby, I also had a rare and serious disease called Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, which is thought to arise due to a disorder of the immune system.  It'll probably come as no surprise when I say one of the triggers of Stevens-Johnson Syndrome is the Epstein-Barr virus when active. 

Taking all the research into consideration, as well as my own personal medical history, I very firmly believe there is a direct link between Epstein-Barr and Multiple Sclerosis.  My theory is that those of us that develop MS do so because of faulty wiring in our immune system, so we never gain the adaptive immunity to the virus that most people do.  Hence people like myself, who have lifelong episodes of illness due to the virus going active.  The fact that Steven-Johnson Syndrome is thought to be a disorder of the immune system is crucial to my theory, because that shows I had immune system problems from the time I was an infant.  Being as active Epstein-Barr is a known trigger for Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, it also shows a very likelihood I've lived with the virus in my system for almost my entire life. 

While I'm sure some of you are sitting there going "oh, that's bad!", please don't.  This is a good thing, because the sooner they can pin-point a cause of MS, the sooner they can find a cure for it as well.  With Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week just around the corner (March 8-14), I thought sharing my findings on this was rather timely.  Who knows, maybe I'll live long enough to see the day they do find a cure, and none of us will ever have to live with this disease again.

Food for thought :)

Be well all!


  1. Mis,

    This is very interesting for several reasons. One thing though is that you had Steven-Johnson Syndrome when you were only 18 months old, and it was a mild case or at least you seemed to get over it quick. Maybe because as a first time mom I noticed every friggin change in you and caught it early....I don't know. Could that have caused you to develop chicken pox twice? What about the Eczema, which is also connected to Steven-Johnson.

    Here is another link to the immune deficiency theory. It seem to be very prominent in my family. I had mono twice, the second episode I was much sicker. I also have osteoarthritis that has moved quicker than it should have causing my knees to collapse when I was only 40. I also have fibromyalgia, and test positive on some of the lupus test, again all related to immune disorder. Then there is my mother the list of her immune really and odd things is endless. My brother Glen had a severe case of shingles right after dad passed away and developed polymyalgia (same as fibromyalgia only named that if you get it after age 50). I also recently learned my brother Don not only has diabetes but an odd vitamin B12 deficiency that he now gets shots for.

    And you were right on when you talked about the effect of stress.....boy, were you right. HUGE role in people's health.

    Please keep me posted. Let me know if you need any more medical history.



  2. If my body didn't form the adaptive immunity to Epstein-Barr, then yes, it could be the reason why I didn't develop it against the chicken pox virus either. They are in the same family.

    I know your side of the family's immune system is a mess (no offense, lol). If you remember, I actually tested positive for Lupus in my spinal fluid, so like you I have some 'partial positives' there as well. But at this time, they aren't ready to say I do have it (thank God).