A paper published by Bjarnevik and others in Science 13Th January 2022 tested the hypothesis that multiple sclerosis was caused by Epstein-Barr virus. 

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic inflammatory demyelinating disorder of the central nervous system and as yet, its aetiology is unknown.  

The authors tested the hypothesis that MS was caused by Epstein-Barr virus in a cohort comprising more than 10 million young adults on active duty in the US military. 

955 of whom were diagnosed with MS during this period of service.  

They found that the risk of multiple sclerosis increased 32 fold after infection with Epstein-Barr virus but was not increased after infection with other viruses, including the similarly transmitted cytomegalovirus. 

Serum levels of neurofilament light chain, a biomarker of neuroaxonal degeneration, increased only after EBV seroconversion.  

These findings cannot be explained by any known risk factor for multiple sclerosis and suggest that Epstein-Barr virus is the leading cause of multiple sclerosis.

Dr Paul Ettlinger

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