Epstein-Barr virus or EBV infects the majority of the adult population and results in a latent or dormant infection.
Typically, EBV lives in B cells, a type of immune cell found in the blood and lymph tissue, or in cells of the salivary glands.
The virus reactivates intermittently and is shed in saliva. It is spread from person-to-person by saliva, which is why infectious mononucleosis or glandular fever is called “kissing disease”.
If you are exposed to EBV for this first time as a teenager or adult you are more likely to develop infectious mononucleosis or glandular fever; this is referred to as symptomatic EBV infection.
Having infectious mononucleosis or glandular fever increases your chances of getting MS compared to the general population by a factor of 2.5. Why this happens we don’t know, but it does suggest that if we can prevent the population developing infectious mononucleosis or glandular fever we may be able to reduce the incidence of MS.
There is some evidence that EBV reactivation within the body may be triggering MS relapses and disease activity on MRI. Therefore if we can treat MS’ers with a drug that targets EBV we may be able to suppress MS disease activity.
“We are in the process of preparing a grant application to the Medical Research Council to test an anti-viral drug that targets EBV in MS. This study will have to be a placebo-controlled trial. Would you be interested in participating?”