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Researchers Find Link Between Epstein-Barr Virus and Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis
Researchers at Harvard University have established a connection between the Epstein-Barr Virus and Multiple Sclerosis. Credit: Harvard University

Researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health determined a link between the cause of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV.) The team’s research was published in the journal “Science” on Thursday.

MS is an unpredictable, often debilitating central nervous system disorder that disrupts the flow of information within the brain and between the brain and the body.

Symptoms vary from person to person, ranging from numbness and tingling to difficulty walking, fatigue, dizziness, pain, depression, blindness, and paralysis.

Most people with multiple sclerosis are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, and affects women two to three times more than it affects men. It is estimated that today more than 2.3 million people worldwide suffer from multiple sclerosis.

Epstein-Barr Virus linked to Multiple Sclerosis

“The hypothesis that EBV causes MS has been investigated by our group and others for several years, but this is the first study providing compelling evidence of causality,” said Alberto Ascherio, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard Chan School and senior author of the study.

“This is a big step because it suggests that most MS cases could be prevented by stopping EBV infection and that targeting EBV could lead to the discovery of a cure for MS.”

The researchers explored the connection between EBV and MS by studying over 10 million young adults on active duty in the U.S. military.

The team found 955 who received an MS diagnosis during their service. Looking at serum samples taken once every two years by the military, the team was able to determine each soldiers’ EBV status from the beginning of their research, which allowed them to track the relationship between EBV infection and MS onset as it occurred.

The study found that the risk of developing MS increased by 32 after being infected with EBV. This was not the case with other viruses.

“Currently there is no way to effectively prevent or treat EBV infection, but an EBV vaccine or targeting the virus with EBV-specific antiviral drugs could ultimately prevent or cure MS,” said Ascherio.

Greek-Australian man with Multiple sclerosis seeks experimental treatment

Greek-Australian man Dimitri Garbas, a father of two, has been battling MS since 2017. Fighting off crippling nerve pain and an array of other symptoms, he is now pinning his hopes on trying a new treatment that he must travel to Russia to receive.

Called Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT), the treatment is part of a desperate effort on the part of the young man, who says “All I want in this life is to be a loving, caring and able dad to my young family.

“This is my cross to bear and I have been blessed with two healthy, beautiful children and a wife that has stood by my side.”

The MS drugs that he took “simply did not work for me,” Garbas says, adding that he is determined to undergo the experimental treatment because “I will not leave any stone unturned on my quest” to be cured of the malady.

“HSCT is delivering the best results to date, stopping the progression of the disease at an 85% success rate,” Garbas notes, adding “It’s extremely unfortunate that this treatment is only available in Australia for MS patients under strict criteria, once the disease has actually resulted in significant irreparable damage.”

Garbas hopes that, if his goal is met to raise $85,000, he can undergo the treatment in Russia. “With God in my heart and support of all family and friends, I am prepared to try HSCT. I for one will not sit back waiting and wondering what tomorrow may bring in the form of this disability,” he declares.

“I’m not doing this just for me I’m doing it for my family,” Garbas states, adding “I sincerely hope you’re never in my position — but if you were, I believe you would do all that you could to overcome it.”

All those who would like to help may contribute to Garbas’ GoFundMe page, here.

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