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Study Suggests Human Herpes Virus 6 May Increase the Risk of MS

January 10, 2018

Another herpes virus has been identified by Iranian researchers that could potentially increase the risk of a person developing multiple sclerosis. The human herpesvirus 6 (HHV6) was found to be a potential risk factor for MS through a meta-analysis of several studies.

Scientists have found other herpes viruses associated with MS, such as the Epstein-Barr virus which is also known as human herpesvirus 4. Links between HHV6 and MS have been suggested through recent studies as well, although the findings have been quite controversial.

Through October 1992 to September 2016, an Iranian team of researchers did a meta-analysis of studies to see if they could determine whether HHV6 and MS are in fact connected.

This meta-analysis covered 2,693 MS cases, 2,329 healthy controls and 480 people with neurological diseases besides MS.  Blood samples or molecules were used to try to find links between HHV6 and MS. The studies all included 19 blood samples, nine cerebrospinal fluid samples, nine peripheral blood mononuclear cell samples, four tissue samples and one urine sample. 

Healthy individuals were used as controls in 19 studies, and people with neurological diseases besides MS as were used as controls in nine studies. Scientists who used serum or blood samples in their research found noteworthy links between HHV6 and MS compared to the controls. 

When using healthy people as controls rather than those with other neurological diseases, studies were found to be more likely to yield significant associations between MS and HHV6.

This analysis also showed higher levels of antibodies against HHV6 in MS patients than those with other diseases affecting the nervous system. The analysis also suggests that measuring levels of antibodies against HHV6 “could be helpful for identifying populations with a high risk for MS.”

They stated that overall their analysis had demonstrated that HHV6 increases the risk of multiple sclerosis and highlights the relationship of MS and HHV6.