The study, “Epstein Barr virus‐immortalized B lymphocytes exacerbate experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis in xenograft mice,” was published in the Journal of Medical Virology.
EBV, also known as human herpesvirus 4, is one of the most common of human viruses. It can cause infectious mononucleosis, also called mono, and is a known risk factor for MS.
“However, the exact mechanism by which EBV, specifically in infectious mononucleosis, increases the risk for MS remains unknown,” the researchers wrote.
Previous studies have shown that EBV, upon infecting antibody-producing immune B-cells, can “immortalize” these cells. That is, EBV allows them to grow continuously — proliferate indefinitely — in a lab dish. The virus has also been found to promote the expansion of these cells in people with mono, a phenomenon that is known to occur in MS patients.
To explore the link between MS and mono in more detail, researchers at the University of Nebraska used mice with experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) — an established model of MS — and injected them with immortalized EBV-infected B-cells obtained from a patient with secondary progressive MS.
Animals were then monitored for signs of EAE, such as partial or complete limb paralysis. The mice never showed any signs of the disease after being injected with these cells, indicating that EBV-infected immune cells by themselves do not trigger EAE.
Switching gears, the researchers decided to test if the presence of EBV-infected B-cells could lead to a relapse in animals with evident symptoms of EAE.
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