Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory disease of the central nervous system in which the body’s immune system is abnormally directed towards the myelin sheaths covering the nerve fibers. What triggers the neuroinflammation and autoimmune destruction of the myelin sheaths remains unknown. However, it is widely accepted that susceptibility depends on a combination of genetic and environmental factors and their interactions. With little chance of influencing genetic predisposition, the importance of identifying risk factors which could be modulated to either prevent the on-set of MS or to ameliorate the course of the disease, is an attractive alternative. An accumulating body of evidence, including our own recent study involving over 1000 MS and non-MS samples, indicates that Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a common herpesvirus, could be involved. In this chapter, we review the studies linking EBV to MS and propose an explanation by which this common virus could be involved in the pathogenesis of MS.
Part of the book: Multiple Sclerosis