MS is an autoimmune disease that attacks the central nervous system—but scientists have been mystified as to why it starts.
The Epstein-Barr herpes virus has been suspected as being a trigger, but new research has discovered it could be the result of several herpes viruses acting in concert, and with the herpes virus 6 strain playing a key role.
MS sufferers are carriers of the herpes 6A strain, and it could be this that kick-starts the disease, say researchers from the Karolinska Institute. If they had a herpes 6 infection when they were children, they were more than twice as likely to develop MS as adults, the researchers discovered after analysing blood samples taken from 8,700 MS sufferers and comparing them to 7,200 healthy controls. They also had a 55 percent higher risk of having antibodies against the 6 strain.
Although the Epstein-Barr virus still seems to be linked to MS, the risk is magnified when the sufferer is also a carrier of the herpes 6 virus.