Australian researchers have published a report about administering an immune therapy directed against the Epstein-Barr virus to a 42-year-old man with secondary-progressive MS. Treatment involved removing a sample of his blood, then stimulating his immune cells that are directed against this virus, and then returning them via a series of intravenous infusions. As of 21 weeks of follow up, they found no significant adverse effects. Although the investigators and the individual reported improvements in lower limb movement, decreases in disease activity observed on MRI scans, and improvements in fatigue, spasticity and cognition, this was not a controlled trial and so the effectiveness of this procedure cannot yet be determined. Michael Pender, MD, PhD and colleagues (The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia) reported on this single case in the MS Journal, published online February 3, 2014.
Epstein-Barr Virus and MS: The cause of MS, an unpredictable immune-mediated disease that attacks the central nervous system, is unknown, but the disease is thought to occur when susceptible individuals encounter one or more triggering factors in their environment. Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a herpesvirus known to cause infectious mononucleosis and other disorders. Most people in the general population have been exposed to the virus. Research has suggested EBV as a possible trigger, however, it is still not possible to determine whether EBV triggers MS, or whether its presence is a consequence of MS. Read more about viruses and MS.
Further Research Required: This is an intriguing report of the experience of one individual with an experimental approach that is based on the possibility that MS involves infection with the Epstein-Barr virus. Clinical trials are needed to confirm the safety and effectiveness of this novel immunotherapy as a treatment strategy for people with MS. Another study taking an anti-virus approach to treat MS is underway at Queen Mary University of London, where they are testing whether the vaccine raltegravir (which acts against this and other viruses) can prevent progression of disease in 24 people with relapsing-remitting MS. Read more here.