Strains of Epstein-Barr virus infecting multiple sclerosis patients

R. M. Brennan, J. M. Burrows, M. J. Bell, L. Bromham, P. A. Csurhes, A. Lenarczyk, J. Sverndal, J. Klintenstedt, M. P. Pender, S. R. Burrows

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Both epidemiological and experimental studies have indicated that the ubiquitous herpesvirus Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) plays a role in the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis (MS). Some features of MS epidemiology, such as the decline in risk among migrants from high to low MS prevalence areas, suggest the presence of variant EBV strains that increase MS risk. The objective of this study was to investigate whether genetic variability in EBV is associated with MS. Genes encoding for two EBV antigens (EBNA1 and BRRF2) were sequenced in EBV isolates from 40 MS patients and a similar number of control subjects. These viral antigens were chosen for analysis because they are known to stimulate atypical immune responses in MS. Extensive sequence polymorphism was observed within the EBNA1 and BRRF2 genes in isolates from both MS patients and controls. Interestingly, several single nucleotide polymorphisms within the EBNA1 gene, and one within the BRRF2 gene, were found to occur at marginally different frequencies in EBV strains infecting MS patients versus controls. Although this study does not find a simple causal relationship between EBV strains and the occurrence of MS, the existence of haplotypes that occur at different frequencies in MS patients versus controls may provide an area for future study of the role of EBV strain variation in multiple sclerosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)643-651
Number of pages9
JournalMultiple Sclerosis
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Amino acid
  • Epstein-Barr virus
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Sequence polymorphism
  • Viral gene
  • Viral infections

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