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How does mononucleosis (aka “kissing disease”) impact Multiple Sclerosis?

More evidence has suggested the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a member of the herpes family that causes mononucleosis (aka the “kissing disease”), can cause Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Recently, a study published went further, citing EBV infection as likely the leading cause of MS. EBV is one virus that has reportedly become re-activated during COVID-19 infection.

The suspected link between nervous system diseases and viruses is not new. Many autoimmune diseases are thought to originate from something called “antigen mimicry.” Think of it as if the disease-causing agents, or “bad guys,” are wearing a kind of antigen “jacket.” Immune cells, the “good guys,” look for bad guys wearing this jacket to detect and destroy. In some instances, the good guys mistake one jacket for another and attack in a form of friendly fire. With MS, it’s thought the brain’s white matter mimics a bad-guy antigen.

Currently, there is no cure for MS. This latest study linking EBV to the disease makes it very plausible that a vaccine against EBV could dramatically reduce the burden of MS. There are many important, unanswered questions but we now have a clearer picture of where to focus research efforts.

Read Kissing Disease’s Link to Multiple Sclerosis to learn more. 

Ask the Clinician by Yasir Jassam, M.D.