The Possible Role of Viral Infections in Multiple Sclerosis

  • V. Ter Meulen


The possibility that a virus infection may be the etiological basis for multiple sclerosis (MS) has mainly been derived from epidemiological studies as well as from the analysis of virus-specific immune responses in patients with the disease (ter Meulen and Stephenson, 1983). The epidemiological data are based on age-specific onset curves, geographic distribution of the disease, studies on migration and familiar clustering of MS cases. These data suggest that an infectious agent to which an MS patient is exposed to at or shortly after puperty could be responsible for this disease. The determination of viral antibodies in MS patients in comparison to those of a control population have proven that the majority of MS patients do reveal a statistically significant increase in viral antibody titers in serum and CSF material against a variety of viral agents such as measles, mumps, parainfluenza III, influenza C, herpes simplex, varizella zoster or rubella virus. These viral antibodies are often locally produced in CNS tissue by invading lymphocytes. Yet, all attempts to isolate or identify a particular virus as the causative agent have failed and the various virus isolates derived from MS material could not be unequivocally associated with the disease. Despite these failures to find a viral agent for multiple sclerosis, the available immunological and virological circumstantial evidence supports the hypothesis of an association between MS and a viral infection.


Multiple Sclerosis Multiple Sclerosis Patient Myelin Basic Protein Rubella Virus Viral Agent 
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Copyright information

© ECSC, EEC, EAEC, Brussels and Luxembourg 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • V. Ter Meulen

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