Lack of sunlight boost multiple sclerosis risk
Infection with a common virus known as mononucleosis and little exposure to sunlight may combine to boost a person's risk for developing multiple sclerosis (MS).
Infectious mononucleosis is a disease caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, which is a Herpes virus that is extremely common but causes no symptoms in most people. However, when a person contracts the virus as a teenager or adult, it often leads to infectious mononucleosis. The body makes vitamin D when exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) light. MS is more common at higher latitudes, farther away from the equator. The disease has been linked to environmental factors such as low levels of sun exposure and a history of infectious mononucleosis.
To see whether the two together would help explain the variance in the disease across the United Kingdom., researchers examined hospital admissions in England's National Health Service over a seven-year period and focused on 56,681 cases of multiple sclerosis and 14,621 cases of infectious mononucleosis. The researchers also examined data from NASA about the levels of ultraviolet light in England.
It was found that exposure to sunlight and to the mononucleosis virus seemed to explain almost three-quarters of the difference in levels of MS. Sunlight exposure alone appeared to explain 61 percent of the total variance. Exposure in the spring was most strongly associated with MS risk.
The study speculates that it's possible that vitamin D deficiency may lead to an abnormal response to the Epstein-Barr virus. Further research is, however, needed to check whether increasing UVB exposure or using vitamin D supplements and possible treatments or vaccines for the Epstein-Barr virus could lead to fewer cases of MS.
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