Besides MS, the Epstein-Barr virus also raises the risk for six other disorders: systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, and type 1 diabetes.
The study, “Transcription factors operate across disease loci, with EBNA2 implicated in autoimmunity,” was published in the journal Nature Genetics.
Epstein-Barr is extremely widespread. More than 90 percent of the population of the U.S. and other developed nations become infected with by age 20. The virus remains with infected people throughout their lives.
Mononucleosis is the most frequently seen ailment caused by EBV. Mono is nicknamed the “kissing disease” because the virus spreads mainly through saliva.
Previous research linked Epstein-Barr to lupus and certain cancers of the lymphatic system. Regarding the association with lupus, work by John Harley, MD, the current study’s lead author, demonstrated that the immune response to EBV may cause the disease. It also showed that children with lupus were almost always infected with the virus.
When responding to viruses and bacteria, the body uses B-cells to produce antibodies that will fight the foreign agents. But in Epstein-Barr infections, the virus invades and takes control of B-cells.
Scientists now showed that EBV achieves this through tiny proteins called transcription factors, which critically regulate gene expression — the process that generates proteins from DNA.
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