More Evidence Links Epstein-Barr Virus to MS

More Evidence Links Epstein-Barr Virus to MS

More support has been added to the belief that a link exists between the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and multiple sclerosis (MS).

Epstein-Barr is one of the most common viruses, and most people become infected with it at some point in their lives. Frequently, it appears in childhood as infectious mononucleosis, or mono. In a very young child, its symptoms may be minor or unnoticeable.

Over the years, many studies have looked at a possible EBV-MS connection. One of the latest was published earlier this year, with researchers reporting that the interaction between certain genes and the virus is “consistent with an EBV susceptibility signature contributing to risk of developing MS.”

Here’s the latest

Now comes a report in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry by researchers in Germany that adds another link to the chain of evidence. In a study of 901 people with MS, researchers found that all — yes, 100% — tested positive for the Epstein-Barr virus.

“While this finding is consistent with the known high EBV seroprevalence in MS,” researchers wrote, “the absence of any EBV-seronegative patients with early MS in our cohort appears remarkable and further strengthens the evidence for an association of EBV infection and MS.”

So, what else is new?

This should come as no surprise to many people with MS. Two years ago, I wrote about a protein in EBV-infected cells that might trigger genes associated with autoimmune diseases like MS. That column has been viewed more than 300,000 times, with several readers commenting that they believe there is an EPV connection to their MS. As recently as last month, people were still commenting.

“I am thoroughly convinced that my 19 yr old was diagnosed w MS last summer because she had Mono the year before,” one reader noted. “Otherwise she was a 100% healthy, ‘normal’, active, high achieving kid with ZERO family history of any auto immune diseases.”

He mirrors the feelings of others when he complains that, “The key word in the title of this article is ‘another.’ My questions are, HOW MANY are needed before the due attention, money and research is put into DOING something about the already KNOWN fact that EBV and MS are related? We’ve known this since the early 90’s!!”

Can someone be attacked by MS without first being attacked by the Epstein-Barr virus? This new German research, coupled with the studies we’ve seen for years, suggests to me that you can’t. Would curing EPV result in curing MS? Should some money being spent on MS research be diverted to finding a cure for Epstein-Barr? I realize that idea is a bit out of the box. What do you think?

You’re invited to visit my personal blog at


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Ed Tobias is a retired broadcast journalist. Most of his 40+ year career was spent as a manager with the Associated Press in Washington, DC. Tobias was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1980 but he continued to work, full-time, meeting interesting people and traveling to interesting places, until retiring at the end of 2012.
Ed Tobias is a retired broadcast journalist. Most of his 40+ year career was spent as a manager with the Associated Press in Washington, DC. Tobias was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1980 but he continued to work, full-time, meeting interesting people and traveling to interesting places, until retiring at the end of 2012.

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  1. Christopher says:

    Although for sake of argument someone could find a cure for EBV, there is still the problem of the immune system’s ‘Achilles heel’ that permitted the formation of MS in the cellular microenvironment. Curing EBV may halt the development of MS in some people, but there could still be other viruses or contaminants (viral/bacterial/toxin/etc) that together with the biological backdoor actuate the genesis of multiple sclerosis.

    Definitely it would still be very important to rid the world of Epstein-Barr virus in the case of possibly causing MS, but also EBV induced disease in general.

      • Tamara Sellman says:

        I think it’s a great discussion. And why NOT find ways to prevent EBV? It might be easier to at least do that for the time being, while continuing to look for the more complex preventions and causes for MS. Great piece, Ed.


    • Asia says:

      I would certainly back the idea that some MS research funding should go towards finding an EBV cure, given the strong, obvious relationship between the 2. I had mono when I was 14 or 15 years old, and 3 of my 4 kids have had it in their teens as well. As I’m the only person in my large extended family with MS, I’m hoping my kids’ experience with mono doesnt lead to anything in their futures.

  2. Pete says:

    Interesting thought about how curing EPV might lead to curing MS. I had mono when I was 17 then an ear infection 10 years later. The ear infection seemed to trigger the MS which was hanging out in my body waiting for something like that so it could manifest itself.

  3. Cindy Cunningham says:

    I suffered a sever case of EPV (mononucleosis) at the age of 17. I am convinced there is a direct correlation between that illness and my subsequent MS diagnosis.
    I agree that more research and funding should focus on EPV, and until a cure can be found, a serious emphasis on prevention. Such efforts must include an aggressive education campaign geared toward adolescents. If both approaches are initiated, there is real potential to prevent future development of MS.
    If the medical community does nothing with this knowledge, is it not compliant in relegating otherwise healthy individuals to a future life of diminished quality of life, compromised health, and eventual disability?

  4. I’ve had allergies all my life, and had mono when I was 17, and from the others above comments, 17 seems to be the magic number! I find it quite I interesting and it’s an avenue worth looking into. Let no rock go unturned until there’s a cure for MS. I’m battling PPMS and I’m ready for some good news soon!

    • Ed Tobias says:

      Hi Jane,

      Thanks for your comment. I also never had mono. The thing about EBV is that you can have had it as a child with few or no symptoms. You can carry the virus without having had mono.


      • Danielle says:

        This is true. I actually never knew I’d had mono. I found out by accident when I got really sick and was eventually diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. The virus that caused my FM to trigger wasn’t EBV, but they found that I had antibodies for it and had had it in the past.

        I do remember one virus that knocked me for a loop a few years before that (I was 14 or 15), but we never suspected it was mono. It’s totally possible to get it and never know.

  5. Joanne Perkins says:

    I had shingles when I was 8; and then mono when I was 16 and 17. MS was diagnosed when I 26. I’m now 59, still ambulatory, and fatigued as all get out. I’m so happy to hear that someone is looking into the EBV connection!
    Thanks for keeping us informed Ed.

  6. Tricia Roeper says:

    I always test positive (20 times out of the normal range and beyond) for EPV and every doctor over the years has told me that it had nothing to do with my illness. I could tell it does! Over the past 8 months I have passed every “test” for MS and have many of the familiar symptoms so I do believe there is a correlation. My opinion is worth nothing. However, I am concerned about my son who is 40 years old and when he gets an EPV flare up he is so sick for days. He had mono at 8 and it was very bad for him including the swollen spleen. I fear that he might get MS. I hope something to help will be discovered before he gets it.

    • Ed Tobias says:

      Hi Tricia,

      Are the “every doctor” neurologists? If so, has the neuro been an MS specialist? If that’s not the case it might be worthwhile speaking with a neurologist at an MS Center, if that’s possible.


  7. Christine says:

    Thanks for publicizing this research. I have been diagnosed with mono twice. Once at age 31 and then age 43. In both cases I had the same symptoms and circumstances. I was then diagnosed at age 60 with MS due to an occurrence of optic neuritis. I have read about this correlation and it seems quite relevant to me. I am presently doing well except for fatigue and a new sensitivity to heat. As exciting as this correlation is, however, the fact that their is no treatment so far or prevention for EBV has to temper it a bit. But then again any new information with solid research to back it up is exciting! Thanks!

    • Ed Tobias says:

      Thanks for your comments, Christine. There have been more and more studies showing a likely link between MS and EBV. So, I’d love to see more money spent on a vaccine for EBV. It seems to me if that virus could be eliminated it might go a long way to eliminating, or reducing the cases of, MS.

      I’ll be keeping my eye out for additional research about this and will continue to point it out whenever I find it.


  8. Jennifer Mariano says:

    Add me to the mix. I am 51, diagnosed with MS in 2010, although it took years to properly diagnose me. I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue in 1993 after falling off an 8’ ladder. The EBV connection is clear with me too. I also had a severe case of mono when I was 17. Fortunately, I don’t often hear of people being diagnosed with it much anymore.

  9. Tammy says:

    I had mono and strep twice in my senior year of high school. I wish my doctor would’ve explained to me how important it was for me to take it easy and recover. I soon was diagnosed with CFS and then UCTD and now I also have MS. Before having mono, my health had been fine. I can’t say that anymore.

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