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November 07, 2012

Risk Factors and Multiple Sclerosis

A recent article in Nature Review (Nature Reviews Neurology 8, 602-612 (November 2012) | doi:10.1038/nrneurol.2012.198) proposes new insight on the possible causes of multiple schlerosis (MS). 
The authors suggested that, in addition to a genetic predisposition, a triad of risk factors seem to greatly increase the likelihood of the disease manifesting itself.  These include previous infection with Ebstein-Barr virus (Infectious Mononucleosis, "Kissing Disease"), Vitamin D deficiency and cigarette smoking.
While the method of connection to EBV is uncertain, it is theorized that the infection causes the immunesystem to malfunction by altering the function of the B- and T-lymphocytes.
It is well known that Vitamin D functions not only as a Vitamin but also has powerful hormonal effects. The connection between low blood levels of Vitamin D could help explain the observations concerning MS incidence and geography that has been well documented.
Smoking is well known to reduce the function of the immune system.  In this context, smoking appears to increase the risk of MS by about 50%.