Gem from the MEA February Newsletter

Epstein Barr Virus

There have been some interesting developments regarding Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) – Human Herpesvirus 4 – in recent weeks. It is colloquially referred to as Glandular Fever or the ‘kissing disease’ (infectious mononucleosis) and is one of the more recognised triggers to Post-Viral Fatigue Syndrome and ME/CFS

EBV replicates in the epithelial cells of the tonsils and is secreted in saliva. It is an extremely common infection, with 95% of the world’s population infected by their 40s. Once infected, you carry the virus – usually in a dormant state – for the rest of your life.

Sometimes, however, the virus may reactivate. Reactivation does not always cause symptoms, but people with weakened immune systems – including perhaps certain people with ME/CFS – are more likely to develop symptoms similar to the original infection. Other factors suspected of reactivating the virus are infections, stress, taking immunosuppressants, and hormonal changes such as menopause.

Reactivated EBV has now been recognised as one of four risk factors for Long Covid, and the virus has recently been revealed as a leading cause of Multiple Sclerosis. It has been associated with several other autoimmune disorders and implicated in the development of several cancers, including Burkitt and Hodgkin’s lymphomas.

Moderna has now embarked on the first phase of a clinical trial – The Eclipse Trial – that aims to develop an effective vaccine to EBV, and both Dr Shepherd (ME Association) and Dr Harper (Cambridge ME Support), welcomed the news. This renewed focus on EBV might help determine how it triggers PVFS/ME/CFS and if the reactivated virus has a role to play in perpetuating the symptoms we associate with this disease. Hopefully a successful vaccine can remove the risk for future generations – but its early days yet…

With kind regards

Russell Fleming
Communications Manager
The ME Association

Leave a Reply