The Role of EBV, B cells and NKT cells in MS

Start Term
End Term
December 31, 2019
Funding Amount
University of British Columbia
Geographic Region(s) / Province(s)
British Columbia
Research Priorities
Cause of MS
Impact Goal(s)
Prevent MS


  • Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) is the most common cause of infectious mononucleosis, an illness highly prevalent among adolescents. Adolescents and young adults with clinically diagnosed infectious mononucleosis have a high risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS).
  • The factors linking mononucleosis and MS risk remain to be elucidated.
  • The research team will:
    • Examine the immune response to EBV in infants compared to young adults
    • Determine if the immune response that gives rise to a positive diagnosis of infectious mononucleosis is an essential feature for developing MS

Project Description:

An environmental factor involved in the risk of developing MS is infection with EBV. Although a large proportion of the general population is infected with EBV, virtually all individuals diagnosed with MS are infected, and MS is almost non-existent in EBV-uninfected individuals. Thus, the possibility exists to completely prevent MS by targeting EBV. In adolescence or young adulthood, EBV often results in “mono” or infectious mononucleosis (IM) which is identified using a test called the monospot test. The monospot test is only reliable for diagnosing EBV infections at later ages (when MS risk is high), but not in young children (when MS risk is low). Dr. Peter van den Elzen and his research team will determine if the immune response that gives rise to the positive monospot is an essential feature of developing MS. To do so, the researchers will compare the immune response to EBV in infants to those in young adults. The differences in the immune response between infants and young adults may relate directly to the risk of developing MS.

Potential Impact: Identify the cellular and molecular components of the immune response that give rise to MS to prevent its development.

Project Status: In Progress