Hunt for EBV Vaccine Gets a Boost From NIH

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by Ed Tobias |

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The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is joining the search for a vaccine to attack the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). This is a big deal for people with multiple sclerosis, because carrying the virus is thought to play a significant role in the development of MS. In fact, research published earlier this year by Harvard scientists concludes that a previous EBV infection may increase a person’s MS risk by 32 times.

There’s a good chance you’re among the 90-95% of the world’s population who have been infected by EBV, which often occurs during childhood. EBV can cause mononucleosis and other illnesses, although frequently, people who have EBV show no symptoms at all.

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Fighting MS by fighting EBV

Multiple efforts are underway to develop EBV vaccines and therapies. An investigational therapy called ATA188 is among those being researched, and a small study has indicated that this treatment may have an impact on MS. Researchers hope to enroll up to 80 non-active primary and secondary progressive MS patients with evidence of past or current EBV infection in their study’s second phase.

Moderna, which produces one of the mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines, is further along in its quest. The company is sponsoring a clinical trial for a possible EBV vaccine that uses the same mRNA technology as the COVID-19 vaccine. Researchers hope to enroll about 270 participants across 15 sites in the U.S.

Other researchers are investigating whether an experimental COVID-19 T-cell therapy called TVGN-489 can be used against EBV for the treatment of MS.

NIH plans EBV vaccine trial

The NIH study carries with it the considerable weight of this major research institution. The study plans to enroll 40 healthy adults ages 18 to 29, half of whom have evidence of prior EBV infection. Over a six-month period, they’ll receive three injections of an experimental vaccine called EBV gp350-Ferritin, developed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ (NIAID) Laboratory of Infectious Diseases, which is part of the NIH. It targets a glycoprotein found on the surface of the virus and virus-infected cells. This investigational vaccine showed encouraging results in an EBV mouse model about four years ago.

“A vaccine that could prevent or reduce the severity of infection with the Epstein-Barr virus could reduce the incidence of infectious mononucleosis and might also reduce the incidence of EBV-associated malignancies and autoimmune diseases,” NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, MD, said in a press release.

Which brings us back to MS

The words “autoimmune diseases” in Dr. Fauci’s quote are what jump out to me, because MS is one of those autoimmune diseases. In their report earlier this year, the Harvard researchers wrote: “The extremely low MS risk in EBV-negative individuals suggests that, by far, most MS cases are caused by EBV and could thus potentially be prevented by a suitable vaccine.”

Is an EBV vaccine the MS cure we’ve all been hoping for? Let’s hope the added research muscle of the NIH will lead to an EBV vaccine sooner rather than later.

You’re invited to visit my personal blog at www.themswire.com.


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.

Comments

massimo avatar

massimo

Hello, I would like to know if this vaccine against EBV could also work for those who have already contracted SM. Thanks
Massimo

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Massimo,

I think you mean MS, rather than SM, right? Vaccines are intended to prevent an illness, rather than to treat one. Unfortunately, I don't think an EBV vaccine would help with MS symptoms or progression, but I guess you never know.

Ed

Reply
Richard Alexander Leakey avatar

Richard Alexander Leakey

Hello,
I'm 78 years old and was diagnosed with Benign MS back in 2008. Since then my Benign form of MS has progressed to a position where I rely on a rollator inside the house and a mobility scooter outside. in February of this year, I was diagnosed with incurable small cell lung cancer. At this time am I right to blame the Epstein- Barr Virus for some or all of my woes?
Regards
Richard Leakey

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Richard,

I'm sorry about your cancer diagnosis. I'm not a scientist but I've read nothing connecting EBV with small cell lung cancer. Have you asked your oncologist?

Ed

Reply
Patricia L. DAndrea avatar

Patricia L. DAndrea

I am currently participating in a two-year study sponsored by the NIH that measures the efficacy of the mRNA vaccines for Covid-19. I have RRMS and my question is are people with RRMS also participating in this vaccine study targeting the EBV?

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Patricia,

That's an interesting question but one that I can't answer. I suggest you ask whoever your contact at NIH is for your study. Let us know what you find out, please.

Ed

Reply
Ruth Hoham avatar

Ruth Hoham

This is very good news - hope it gets serious attention!

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Ruth,

I think it has a lot of attention now!

Ed

Reply
Carol Albert avatar

Carol Albert

Why would this be of interest for people who already have MS? It seems to be a vaccine for preventing it?

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Carol,

It's hoped these vaccines will prevent EBV and, perhaps, prevent MS as well. I guess it would be of interest to people to know that in coming years it might be possible to prevent EBV and MS the way a vaccine was created to prevent polio. At least it's of interest to me. And, maybe after we know how to prevent the next step might be to wash it from the bodies of those of us who live with it.

Ed

Reply
Yolande Sander avatar

Yolande Sander

I do not see how a PREVENTATIVE vaccine can be seen as a CURE. As great as this vaccine will be, it is important to realise it won't cure MS.

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Yolande,

You're right, a vaccine won't rid you of a disease or its symptoms but it might eliminate the possibility of someone becoming ill with the disease in the first place. Shouldn't that be considered a cure, just as vaccine "cured" polio?

Ed

Reply
Ahmet Ağır avatar

Ahmet Ağır

Hello,

In the text it says:

"It targets a glycoprotein found on the surface of the virus and virus-infected cells."

Isn't this vaccine a conventional vaccine that only can prevent new infections. Is that vaccine can target and attack something? If that vaccine can attack the virus-infected cells, so is it a treatment also?

I'm confused about this.

What's the meaning of this sentence?

Thanks for reply.

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hello Ahmet,

Yes, the vaccines being studied would only prevent new infections by the Epstein-Barr virus. They would not be a treatment. It appears there may be a mistake in the sentence you quote, which was taken directly from the NIH news release. I believe it should say "It targets a glycoprotein found on the surface of cells." Glycoproteins act as viral receptors and the idea of the vaccine is to block the virus from entering the cell and infecting it.

Does that make more sense?

Ed

Reply

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