A study led by scientists at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute has revealed a new way to distinguish between two different but closely related herpes viruses,media reported. The screening system was then tested in a large number of patients with multiple sclerosis to provide new evidence that a specific herpes strain may play a role in the onset stage of autoimmune diseases.
In the 1990s, a scientist named Peter Challoner found an abnormally high-expression viral DNA in the brain cells of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). The virus was identified as human herpes virus 6 (HHV-6), and since then it has been the focus of many studies, with some scientists assuming that the virus may have triggered an acute episode of acute inflammation in MS.
For decades, scientists have known that HHV-6 appears to be expressed in two relatively different subtypes, HHV-6A and HHV-6B. Only recently, however, research has begun to reveal the differences between the two subtypes. In 2012, the International Committee on Virological Classification finally classified the two viruses as completely separate strains.
Over the past 10 to 20 years, numerous studies have shown a strong link between HHV-6 and MS in blood and brain tissue research. But frustratingly, there is still no easy way to distinguish between the two different HHV-6 viruses.
Now, new research has demonstrated the effectiveness of a new screening system that can identify differences between HHV-6A and HHV-6B antibodies. The system tested blood samples from more than 8,000 MS patients and blood pressure samples from more than 7,000 healthy people. The results showed that HHV-6A antibodies were more pronounced in the blood of MS patients. HHV-6B antibodies do not exist, which confirms previous studies that have shown that HHV-6A is a more neurotoxic strain of the virus.
But the researchers made it clear that their study did not mean that HHV-6A was a clear MS causative factor. The disease is likely to be the result of a combination of a number of different environmental and genetic factors, but this study presents interesting evidence that pointing to a virus that can trigger an acute attack.
This is not the first neurological disease associated with herpes virus. Now, an increasingly popular hypothesis that HHV-6A is linked to Alzheimer’s disease, and studies have found that patients with this neurodegenerative disease have large amounts of HHV-6A virus in their brains. Like the new MS study, any causal mechanism swaying the virus to dementia has yet to be discovered, but many scientists have speculated about how the virus may have caused the disease.
Anna Fogdell-Hahn, one of the lead authors of the study, said: “Both HHV-6A and 6B can infect our brain cells, but they are infected in slightly different ways. So what’s interesting now is that we need to keep working hard to find out how the virus is affecting MS. “
The study was published in Frontiers in Immunology.