June 8, 2011
Study Finds Shingles May Be Related To Elevated Risk Of Multiple Sclerosis
Taiwanese investigators have found that there can be a significantly higher risk of multiple sclerosis (MS) occurring in the year following a shingles, or herpes zoster, attack. The findings, which support a long-held view on how MS may develop, are published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases and now available online (http://jid.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2011/06/07/infdis.jir239.abstract).
MS is an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord, leading to inflammation and nerve damage as the body's immune cells attack the nervous system. Possible causes that may trigger the inflammation include environmental, genetic, and viral factors. One virus that has been associated with MS is varicella zoster virus, the cause of herpes zoster.
Although the study was limited almost entirely to Han Chinese adults, the large scope of this nationwide case-controlled study, 1.26 million sampled patients, provides strong epidemiological evidence for a possible role for herpes zoster in the development of MS. The authors also point out that MS has a lower prevalence in Asian compared to Western populations and, thus, it may be difficult to project their findings to other populations.
In an accompanying editorial (http://jid.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2011/06/07/infdis.jir243.extract), Teresa Corona, MD, and Jose Flores, MD, of the National Institute of Neurology and Neurosurgery in Mexico noted that "The evidence provided in this study"¦allows us to better understand the role of these viral factors as an MS risk among certain genetically susceptible individuals," and that the study should be corroborated in other parts of the world to help clarify the role of this and other viruses in MS.
On the Net: