Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking the myelin sheath, the protective covering of nerve fibers. This disrupts the conduction of electrical impulses between the brain and the body, causing symptoms that range from muscle spasms and spasticity to fatigue and pain.
Most MS treatments aim to dampen the immune system to reduce or prevent such attacks, which can leave patients susceptible to infections from bacteria and viruses.
What are coronaviruses?
Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of zoonotic viruses, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. These viruses are common, and infection can result in symptoms that range from a mild common cold to fever, cough, and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, infection can lead to severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and death.
A new coronavirus strain called COVID-19 is now showing an ability to spread rapidly from person to person. COVID-19, officially designated SARS-CoV-2 (for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2), was first detected in Wuhan, capital of the Hubei Province in China, in late 2019, and has not been previously reported in humans.
This virus is related to SARS-CoV, the SARS-associated coronavirus that caused an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2002–03, but the two are not the same.
Is there a link between MS and coronaviruses?
Recent research also suggests that a strain of human coronavirus, called HCoV-OC43 and associated with respiratory tract infections, might be able to infect the brain and induce neurological diseases with unknown origins, such as MS, encephalitis, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s disease.
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