Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Multiple Sclerosis Health Center

Font Size

Epstein-Barr Virus May Trigger MS

Elevated Antibodies Could Predict Disease

Multiple Viral Triggers

But an MS expert who spoke to WebMD says he remains skeptical that Epstein-Barr virus is the single, infectious culprit responsible for the disease.

"There are probably a dozen or more infectious agents that have been proposed as causative in MS, and for each one there is some evidence to argue the case," says John Richert, MD, who is head of research and clinical programs for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. "But no one has been able to come up with the definitive proof that their particular agent is the one."

Richert says it is widely accepted that environmental factors, specifically infections, trigger MS in people who are genetically vulnerable to the disease. But he adds that it is more likely that multiple triggers come into play.

"When we finally understand everything about MS, it may not be a single virus or other infectious agent that is the trigger," he says. "It may well be that different agents act as triggers in different people."

He notes that people with MS tend to generate higher immune responses to many different viruses, including those that cause mumps, German measles, and herpes. All of these viruses have been studied as potential causative agents for MS.

It is not clear from the study if the people who developed multiple sclerosis decades after their blood samples were taken also had elevated immune responses to these viruses.

Ascherio says he believes Epstein-Barr virus is a uniquely important viral trigger for MS. He points to the mounting evidence linking EBV to other autoimmune diseases, including lupus.

"I am not saying that other viruses might not be involved, but no other virus has displayed such a strong and persistent association with MS," he says. 'I think this certainly makes the case for stepping up efforts to develop an effective vaccine against this virus."

1 | 2

Today on WebMD

nerve damage
Learn how this disease affects the nervous system.
woman applying lotion
Ideas on how to boost your mood and self-esteem.
woman pondering
Get personalized treatment options.
man with hand over eye
Be on the lookout for these symptoms.
brain scan
worried woman
neural fiber
white blood cells
sunlight in hands
marijuana plant
muscle spasm