I Have Antibody To The Epstein-Barr Virus. Why Do I Have This Antibody If I Have MS?

My doctor told me that I have antibody to the Epstein-Barr virus. Why do I have this antibody if I have MS?

All of us encounter the EBV at some point in our lives. The very young and the old may not have any symptoms accompanying their infection, but adolescents and young adults characteristically experience marked fatigue and have large lymph glands with the infection. Antibody levels in most infected people fall and may seem to disappear over a long period of time.

However, many patients with MS have higher than normal levels of antibody (including so-called “early” antibodies to this virus as well as many other viruses and substances).

It is generally accepted that this anti-body appears to be due to a problem of the immune responses rather than evidence that the Epstein-Barr virus is playing a role in MS. Recently, some scientists have reported that one third of MS patients have virus antibody in their spinal fluid that is not present in others. The importance of this finding is uncertain.

Other exciting work has shown immunologic cross-reactivity of MS patient’s lymphocytes between EBV and a brain protein, myelin basic protein. This means that the human immune system reacting to a protein in the EBV virus can cross-react with a brain protein and produce myelin damage. No final conclusions about these findings have been reached.