Written By: Dr. Catherine Valentino OTD, OTR/L, MAAL, MS, BS, FMT


Let us honor Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month by celebrating some recent breakthroughs in MS research. The linking and investigation of a connection between the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) and MS have been developing for the past several years. However, recent publications from Harvard and Stanford University researchers have profoundly impacted this cause-and-effect relationship to better identify at-risk populations and provide guidance for further development of treatments to promote functional longevity in our MS patients.

This emerging relationship data had been presented by Dr. Han and researchers at Stanford in 2017, with their initial research from the institution reporting the need to increase focus and control groups for EBV-specific data for the MS population. Jump ahead to the Bjornevik et al. (2022) study out of Harvard which has now been momentous for identifying causative statistics with robust sample sizes utilizing thousands of military personnel for data. Of the 801 reported service members who developed MS during their 10-year study period, only one was identified not to have the presence of the Epstein-Barr virus (Bjornevik et al., 2022). This study, among others, is building off several historical investigations and theories of EBV being a significant factor in the triggering of MS and destruction of the myelin sheath in patients.

Additional groundbreaking results this year from both universities are more significantly tying this relationship of EBV to trigger MS effects and disease development. Lanz et al. (2022) deduced that the nature of how EBV binds to GlialCAM triggers the destruction of the myelin sheath by the body’s own response to fight the virus. Being able to clearly identify this destructive force paves the way for more focus on treatments and possible vaccines to address this devastating response within the body. Returning to Harvard University’s study by Bjornevik et al. (2022) suggests that interventions can now be further developed to better treat EBV as well as the presentation of MS in patients in clinical management.



Moreover, considerations made in several studies were the prominence of the EBV in much of the population and looking at clinical samples of how the virus manifests in individuals who go on to develop MS. The link to changes in mRNA for host B Cells sheds further light on the variance leading to MS development as not all EBV-positive individuals develop MS, but the presence EBV is nearly universal in MS. Considered is the recent development in mRNA vaccines and the potential to lend this technology for MS treatment development. Making these predictor links to be able to better anticipate and get ahead of MS development is becoming more plausible as there is now tangible data to focus a more strategic fight against this debilitating disease.


Check out the following websites for MS resources for you and your patients:





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Afrasiabi, A., Fewings, N. L., Schibeci, S. D., Keane, J. T., Booth, D. R., Parnell, G. P., & Swaminathan, S. (2021). The Interaction of Human and Epstein-Barr Virus miRNAs with Multiple Sclerosis Risk Loci. International Journal of Molecular Sciences22(6), 2927. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms22062927

Bjornevik, K., Cortese, M., Healy, B. C., Kuhle, J., Mina, M. J., Leng, Y., Elledge, S. J., Niebuhr, D. W., et al. (2022). Longitudinal analysis reveals high prevalence of Epstein-Barr virus associated with multiple sclerosis. Science. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.abj8222

Läderach, F., & Münz, C. (2021). Epstein Barr Virus Exploits Genetic Susceptibility to Increase Multiple Sclerosis Risk. Microorganisms9(11), 2191. https://doi.org/10.3390/microorganisms9112191

Lanz, T. V., Brewer, R. C., Ho, P. P., Moon, J.-S., Jude, K. M., Fernandez, D., Fernandes, R. A., Gomez, A. M., et al. (2022). Clonally Expanded B Cells in Multiple Sclerosis Bind EBV EBNA1 and GlialCAM. Nature, 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-022-04432-7

Leggett, H. (24 Jan., 2022). Study identifies how Epstein-Barr virus triggers multiple sclerosis. Retrieved from https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2022/01/epstein-barr-virus-multiple-sclerosis.html

MStranslate. (18 Jan., 2022). Epstein-Barr Virus as a Treatment Target in Multiple Sclerosis. Www.youtube.com. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/q93F8zxUypk

MSWorldInc. (2 Dec., 2017) Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) and Multiple Sclerosis. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/zmFOLfAT2rI