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Co-infection with EBV types 1 and 2 in people with MS


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Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) like other viruses and bacteria is a family of closely related strains.
There are two major EBV strains; type 1 and type 2.
The existence of EBV strains specifically associated with MS is controversial.
Little is also known about the prevalence of EBV types 1 and 2 in MS patients and the presence of co-infections by both strains.
In this study EBV DNA was detected and typed in blood samples from 75 MS'ers and 186 controls.
EBV DNA was detected in 70 out of 75 patients (93.3%) and in 123 of 186 controls (66.1%).
Dual-infections by both EBV types were detected in 63 patients (90%) and 46 controls (37.4%).
This study provides molecular evidence associating co-infection of type 1 and 2 EBV with MS.
Epub ahead of print: Santón et al. High frequency of co-infection by Epstein-Barr virus types 1 and 2 in patients with multiple sclerosis. Mult Scler. 2011 Jul 14.
"This study uses a technique to detect DNA in the blood of MS'ers; you can be EBV DNA negative and still have the virus. The way we assess past exposure is detecting antibodies to the virus. This explains why not quite 100% of MS'ers were positive."

"To be honest with you I am sceptical about these results. They are contrary to what we know about the immune system; if you get infected with one EBV strain your immune system learns and should prevent you getting infected with a second strain. In other words the first EBV strain should act like a vaccination preventing a second infection with a second EBV strain."

"What worries me the most is the high co-infection rate in normal control subjects; this doesn't make sense."

"If these results can be confirmed by other groups this study may prove to be very important as it means MS'ers who have one EBV strain can't protect themselves from being infected with a second strain. Maybe MS'ers can't handle EBV as well as normals; if this is the case it may provide a clue to how EBV causes MS."