A recent article in the journal Science published research showing scientists have discovered that the risk of an individual contracting multiple sclerosis (MS) increases 32-fold after the individual was infected with the Epstein Barr virus. The risk of developing the condition does not, however, increase when the patient is infected by other viruses. MS biomarkers, which show neurodegeneration, were also tested by the scientists. The results have demonstrated that the levels of the biomarker only increase after infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. The researchers believe that these results suggest that the Epstein-Barr virus is the main cause of MS. This study was further detailed by an article ‘Epstein- Barr Virus Could Be the Leading Cause of Multiple Sclerosis’ published by Dr Sultan Ahmed, an infectious diseases analyst at GlobalData.

There are currently 15 vaccines actively under development for the Epstein-Barr virus, most of which are in discovery or pre-clinical stages. The Modified vaccinia Ankara (MVA) vaccine under development by the Chinese University of Hong Kong is in Phase II of development. This vaccine is a recombinant vector vaccine that uses the same technology as AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson on their Covid-19 vaccines. The most prominent company involved, Moderna, has started testing the vaccine mRNA-1189, which uses mRNA technology, in Phase I studies. If the clinical trials are successful, this vaccine could be one of the first on the market for the Epstein-Barr virus. This vaccine does not have an indication for MS, but it could help with the prevention of the disease.

The mRNA-1189 vaccine contains lipid nanoparticles that encapsulate five mRNAs that encode for five Epstein-Barr virus proteins—gp350, gB, gp42, gH, and gL—and has an intramuscular route of administration. Moderna also has a second Epstein-Barr virus vaccine in its pipeline, mRNA-1195. This vaccine, currently in pre-clinical research, has immune-stimulant activity and helps the immune system recognise antigens from the virus for future exposure.

This paper benefits the Epstein-Barr virus vaccine currently being developed by Moderna, as this research suggests the Epstein-Barr virus as a cause of MS. This discovery and the prospect of a vaccine bring the hope of reducing the risk of MS and creating a new market of Epstein-Barr virus vaccines that prevent this condition. Moderna’s Epstein-Barr vaccine, which uses mRNA like its successful Covid-19 vaccine, also shows how technologies developed for the Covid-19 pandemic can potentially help other indications.