MS News That Caught My Eye Last Week: Epstein-Barr Virus, EHP-101, Anti-CD20 Therapies, Gut Bacteria

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by Ed Tobias |

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Epstein-Barr Virus May be Leading Cause of MS, Raising Risk by 32 Times

Several studies over the past few years have suggested a link between the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and multiple sclerosis (MS), but this one is huge, both in the number of participants and in the length of the study. If its results aren’t evidence that MS organizations need to devote more time and money to finding a vaccine to prevent EBV infection, I don’t know what is.

Infection with the common Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) increases the risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS) by 32 times — the strongest link yet — according to a study looking at two decades of data from more than 10 million U.S. military members.

“The hypothesis that EBV causes MS has been investigated by our group and others for several years, but this is the first study providing compelling evidence of causality,” Alberto Ascherio, MD, the study’s senior author and a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in a university press release.

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“This is a big step because it suggests that most MS cases could be prevented by stopping EBV infection, and that targeting EBV could lead to the discovery of a cure for MS,” Ascherio added.

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Trial of Cannabidiol-derived EHP-101 for Relapsing MS Enrolling Soon

EHP-101 is an oral therapy whose active ingredient is derived from cannabidiol, or CBD, a nonpsychoactive component of the marijuana plant. Mouse studies showed that EHP-101 can reduce inflammation in the brain and promote remyelination. This trial is expected to last about six months.

Emerald Health Pharmaceuticals will soon begin enrollment in a Phase 2a clinical trial investigating its cannabidiol-derived therapy EHP-101 in relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (MS).

The trial (NCT04909502) aims to recruit 50 patients, ages 18-55, with relapsing-remitting MS and active secondary progressive MS. It follows the clearance of the company’s investigational new drug application by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Enrollment is expected to take place at about 30 locations in the European Union, the U.S., and Australia. More information on contacts and locations will be posted at

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MS Type, Anti-CD20 Therapies Tied to Higher COVID-19 Mortality Risk

Here’s another report linking anti-CD20 therapies to COVID-19 treatment problems. Some studies have reported that COVID-19 vaccines are less effective for people using disease-modifying therapies that deplete B-cells. This analysis reports problems with the course of the illness itself. It all points to the need for a thoughtful COVID-19 discussion and coordination of treatment with a neurologist if a patient is being treated with an anti-CD20 medication.

Among people with multiple sclerosis (MS), a progressive disease type and the use of anti-CD20 therapies — such as ocrelizumab and rituximab — were associated with an increased risk of death from COVID-19, a new meta-analysis revealed.

“We hope that these findings … may help neurologists in optimizing the monitoring and treatment decision-making processes in this global crisis due to the pandemic COVID-19 outbreak,” the scientists wrote.

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High Levels of Gut Bacterial Toxins Found in Spinal Fluid of MS Patients

Increasingly, there are indications of a connection between MS and the gut microbiome. By better understanding how toxins from the gut get into the brain, these researchers hope to find a way to prevent nerve cell death and myelin damage.

People with multiple sclerosis (MS) have high levels of toxic compounds made by gut bacteria in the fluid around their brain and spinal cord, a study found.

“This work not only furthers our understanding of the role of gut-brain communication in neurodegenerative disease progression, but also provides a potential metabolic target” to develop new MS therapies, one of the scientists, Patrizia Casaccia, MD, PhD, of City University of New York (CUNY), said in a press release.

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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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Anthony Hoysted avatar

Anthony Hoysted

Hi Ed - Some fantastic news that has crept under the radar is that Moderna has recently launched preliminary human trials of an mRNA vaccine for Epstein-Barr virus. The fact that it is an mRNA vaccine may be a silver lining from the development of mRNA vaccines for COVID-19. Regardless of that, if it is successful, it has the potential to completely change the outlook for the risk of developing MS, similar to how human papillomavirus vaccines have decreased the risk of developing cervical cancer.

Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Anthony,

Thanks for the alert. I just saw that myself. In fact, I'm mentioning it in this Friday's column. Great minds think alike. Combined with the major EBV/MS study that came out about a week ago I think - I hope - we're finally within spittin' range of finding a way to protect people against developing MS.



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