Harvard University Italian epidemiologist Alberto Ascherio and his team have successfully discovered that the Epstein-Barr virus, which causes infectious mononucleosis, or better known as the “kissing disease”, is one of the main causes of the disease. multiple sclerosisa neurological disease that affects the central nervous system and destroys the envelope of neurons.
There are currently nearly three million people living with this disease every day and until recently the true cause of multiple sclerosis was unknown. Patients are usually between 20 and 30 years old and the consequences of the disease can lead, in some cases, to difficulty in walking or speaking.
In the year 2000, Ascherio’s team began a tireless tracking of 10 million US military personnel. The results of tests carried out over the years show that the risk of having multiple sclerosis is increased 32 times if you have already had the kissing disease.
Multiple sclerosis and the “kissing disease”
Alberto Ascherio explained how it is possible that the Epstein-Barr virus, which affects 94% of the population, is responsible for a very rare disorder, with only 36 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. “How is it possible that such a common virus causes a rare disease? Well, that’s not an exception, that’s the rule. The Epstein-Barr virus causes Burkitt’s lymphoma, which is a rare lymphoma, and it also causes nasopharyngeal carcinoma, which is also very rare. Many viruses rarely cause serious illnesses,” explained the Italian scientist in an interview with El País.
“Multiple sclerosis probably doesn’t develop unless a person is infected with the virus,” Ascherio said.
“We have shown that the virus causes the disease, but there are two aspects: it can only cause the onset of the disease or it can also cause its progression. It is almost certain that if the virus is present, it will continue to stimulate this autoimmune response. It is probable, but it is not certain. It is also possible that even if the virus is eliminated, this immune process continues on its own. We still don’t know the answer,” concluded the epidemiologist.