The study analyzed the records of 10 million U.S. troops from 1993 to 2013 and noted a high incidence of people who having been infected with EBV went on to develop MS. EBV is extremely common and it is estimated that roughly 90% of the human population has been infected, many during adolescence.2 So, while the data analysis does support a pathogenic risk factor in the case of MS, it’s also important to ask why then do only some people (~1 out of 1,000) go on to be affected by the disease when nearly everyone will contract EBV at some point? The study paper also states that “although 99% of MS patients have had an EBV infection, 95% of those without MS have, too, making it difficult to pin down the virus’ effects.”
We know that MS arises when an immune system malfunction destroys the fatty substance that coats and protects nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord (myelin). It’s important to note though, as we have seen with many autoimmune diseases, there is no single factor that contributes to disease initiation. Yes, viruses (and the study didn’t discuss any other possible viral links, just EBV) can be one of the environmental or external triggers; genetics or “internal” triggers can also come into play although likely to a lesser degree.
But we’ve often talked about the adverse risks we and our immune systems face every day, from things like airborne chemicals and toxins, lifestyle impacts such as poor nutrition and diets marked by highly processed food, lack of exercise and physical activity, high stress, and other considerations that can all compromise our health.
Dr. Terry Wahls, a renowned physician, clinical professor, and herself a patient afflicted with progressive MS, has long-emphasized the importance of addressing the modifiable disease risk factors rather than look for a single panacea based on a possible causal association. Her protocol, and one that our practice follows, is founded upon sound dietary principles, getting enough sleep, supplementing with vitamins and minerals our bodies need to properly function, and other tenets that all dramatically helped improve her symptoms.
More research and analyses of information we have at hand is absolutely necessary to fully understand why neurological and other autoimmune disorders arise so the most appropriate treatments can be designed. But we must start by looking at how we live each day and what positive changes we can make for our best health opportunities and best quality of life.
In hope and healing,
Dr. Suzanne Gazda
For additional related reading please see:
The dysregulated immune response
MS in the news
MS and the microbiome
1 Kaiser, J. Two decades of soldiers’ medical records implicate common virus in multiple sclerosis. Science.org. (Jan. 13, 2022) https://www.science.org/content/article/two-decades-soldiers-medical-records-implicate-common-virus-multiple-sclerosis
2 Zanella, L., Riquelme, I., Buchegger, K. et al. A reliable Epstein-Barr Virus classification based on phylogenomic and population analyses. Sci Rep 9, 9829 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-45986-3; https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-45986-3