MS News Notes: Cholesterol and MS Progression, Fatigue, Epstein-Barr

Columnist Ed Tobias comments on the week's top MS news

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by Ed Tobias |

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Note: This column has been updated Oct. 18, 2022, to correct the name of the cholesterol medicine the columnist uses to Pravachol. 

Here are a few multiple sclerosis (MS) stories that caught my eye last week:

Low cholesterol and aggressive MS progression

The story “Low Cholesterol May Reflect More Aggressive Disease Progression” by Patricia Valerio prompted me to look at my own cholesterol-management strategy. I’ve been treating my high cholesterol levels with Pravachol for decades. This medication has really kept my cholesterol in check, and I’ve been pleased when my annual checkup has shown perfect HDL/LDL levels. According to this report, however, what’s been good for my heart may have been bad for my MS.

People with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis or clinically isolated syndrome have lower cholesterol levels in their blood and cerebrospinal fluid, the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, compared with those without MS, a study reports.

These lower cholesterol levels might correlate with a more severe disease course, the researchers said, noting that more studies are needed.

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Hormones may affect MS fatigue

This story, titled “Fewer Energy Regulatory Hormones Found in MS Patients in Study,” noted that regulatory hormones controlling energy balance are significantly reduced in MS patients. It’s worth noting that fatigue is one of the most significant problems reported by people with MS. So the idea that by correcting a hormone deficit we could potentially improve our fatigue is quite appealing. This study could perhaps lead to new therapeutic treatments.

Blood levels of nesfatin-1, irisin, adropin, and preptin — all regulatory hormones known to control energy balance — are significantly reduced in MS patients relative to healthy people, a small study showed.

While the implications of these findings remain unclear, the fact that these hormones also have been reported to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, and neuroprotective effects suggests they may represent future therapeutic targets in MS, according to researchers.

EBV-MS link grows stronger

The evidence of a connection between the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and multiple sclerosis continues to mount. In this article, titled “EBV Antibodies Found at Increased Levels in MS Patients in Study,” Lindsey Shapiro describes a study from Spain involving antibodies that fight EBV.

People with MS are significantly more likely to have antibodies against the Epstein-Barr virus — the strongest risk factor for the disease — than healthy individuals, as well as higher levels of these antibodies, according to a Spanish study.

All MS patients were positive for anti-EBV antibodies versus 94.9% of healthy people, adding to several prior studies highlighting that the disease rarely, if ever, occurs in the absence of prior EBV infection.

New cell therapies and EBV

With the growing evidence of an EBV-MS link, as mentioned above, it’s important to devote more research energy to finding a way to kill EBV-infected cells. In the story “Partnership Aims at Cell Therapy Targeting Epstein-Barr Virus in MS,”  Marisa Wexler highlights a company that is researching a process to selectively target and eliminate EBV-infected B-cells. To do that, certain T-cells in the immune systems would be removed and manipulated in order to attack those B-cells. Then they would be infused back into the patient.

NexImmune is working with the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to develop cell therapies for people with immunological disorders associated with certain viral infections, namely the Epstein-Barr virus and human T-cell leukemia virus type 1.

A history of infection with EBV — mostly known for causing infectious mononucleosis, or mono — is currently the strongest risk factor for multiple sclerosis.

What MS news caught your eye last week? Please share in the comments below. 

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.


Lynda Strecker avatar

Lynda Strecker

WOW! I was diagnosed w/MS in 1993 but I actually started when I was 37 when I suddenly suffered an episode which acted like a stroke. It only lasted a few minutes and then reoccurred @ a half hr. later. I was advised by the ER Dr. to see a neurologist but never did and for 15 yrs. after that I led a normal active life. I did have tingling in my feet in the summer when I would run but it didn't impact me other than that. BUT, when I was 24-25, I had a severe case of Mononucleosis. My neurologist did say that my MS might have been as a result of the "mono". I'm 81 now and healthy except for the MS and since the lesions are only in the spinal cord, mobility is my main but unwelcome issue with this insidious disease.

Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Lynda,

Wow, you're one of the very few people with MS I know who's older than me!

I'm surprised your nero made an EBV connection to your MS that long ago. It certainly seems as if the connection is undeniable.

If you're like me, you'd rather be less mobile and more cognitively alert. Let's both keep on keepin' on.


Anthony Hoysted avatar

Anthony Hoysted

Hi Ed. Thanks as always for highlighting interesting stories from the week's MS News. The news about blood and CSF cholesterol also caught my attention. To make matters even more complicated, one of the cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, simvastatin, is currently in a drug trial to investigate any possible beneficial effects on MS.

Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Anthony,

I'm glad my MS News Notes are useful to you. I've heard about the simvastatin trial and will be very interested to learn its results.



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