By Brett Drummond

Recently, a follower on Twitter asked if having ‘mono’ causes multiple sclerosis (MS).  Here is what is currently known about the link between the two.

Mono, known as infectious mononucleosis or glandular fever, is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).  It is one of the most common viruses, with statistics showing that up to 90-95% of adults in the US have been previously infected.  The majority of the time this infection does not lead to glandular fever, however, the infection is chronic and the virus is present at low levels for the rest of your life.

A number of studies have shown a potential link between having been infected with EBV and developing MS.  These findings have included:

  • Showing that EBV can be detected in the brain tissue of people with MS after death and that it is found near sites of neurological damage
  • Showing that people with a higher number of antibodies (cells that form part of the immune system) against EBV have a higher risk of developing MS
  • Showing that a higher percentage of people with MS have had a previous infection with EBV (though this finding needs to be viewed in a certain way).  That is, most people with MS have been previously infected with EBV, but most people previously infected with EBV do not develop MS.

To conclude, there are a number of findings that suggest that previous infection with EBV may increase the risk of developing MS, but is unlikely to be the cause.   Understanding this link is still a major focus of MS research and we will continue to update you with any new research as it is published.

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