Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) has long been implicated in the development of MS. Professor Sanjay Swaminathan and his team have recently found evidence that many genes that are associated with MS also are involved in the body’s ability to fight off an EBV infection. This might go some way to explain the link between MS and EBV. By finding out how EBV interacts with these genes may help us block an EBV infection and improve someone’s MS.
Specifically, this group has found that one gene from the virus hijacks some of the human genes in the immune cells they infect. He proposes to try and block this viral hijacking gene with a small protein to reduce the growth of EBV-infected immune cells, which if effective, could be a new therapy for MS.
Finally, there is a marked gender effect in MS, with females significantly more likely to develop MS than males. This phenomenon is likely mediated by sex hormones. Professor Swaminathan’s team has found that some EBV infected immune cells behave differently in males compared to females. Determining how this occurs will shed light on why gender matters for MS risk and provide insight on how the risk can be reduced by controlling EBV.
Updated 22 January 2020
Updated: 21 January, 2020