When the following headline in the Australian newspaper the Herald Sun caught my eye recently, I was cautiously intrigued:
“Doctors believe they have discovered the cause of multiple sclerosis”
My cynical heart didn’t go pitter-patter as it once would have. Over the past three decades, I’ve become more or less immune to sensational headlines about MS. I’ve read my fair share of articles promising a cure or coming up with a groundbreaking theory. I’ve heard about too many scam artists touting their snake oil to unsuspecting patients. But this article was different.
Apparently, scientists from Harvard University and the University of Glasgow are suggesting that exposure to two common infections — threadworms, a common infection in children that infects the gut, and then the Epstein-Barr virus — may be the cause of MS.
According to Dr. Patrick Kearns of Harvard University, who led the research, “First, when the body is exposed to threadworm infection it produces an immune response and ‘memory’ white blood cells are created and live in the immune system that could fight off the infection again. Next, if someone is exposed to the Epstein-Barr virus, even after they recover from the illness, the virus hides in the white blood cells.” These memory cells start attacking similar cells in the body, Kearns explained, according to the Herald Sun.