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MS link to childhood infection

29th March 2006

Infection from the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) in adolescence can lead to the development of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in later life, according to the Reuters news agency.

Scientists from the Harvard School of Public Health claim that EBV infection, which leads to infectious mononucleosis, more than doubles the risk of developing MS in old age.

Lead author Evan Thacker told the news agency that Multiple sclerosis is a complicated disease, probably caused by a number of factors, but that the new findings were significant.

"It is likely that some viral infections, such as infectious mono, play a role in determining whether multiple sclerosis will occur," he said.

"The potential implication of our observation is that some cases of multiple sclerosis could probably be averted through the prevention of infectious mono."

Mr Thacker concluded that the development of a safe and effective vaccine against the Epstein-Barr virus would be a significant step in preventing MS.

Multiple Sclerosis is thought to affect around 85,000 people in the UK.