MS and the Herpes Zoster Virus

Multiple sclerosis associated with shingles

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The cause of multiple sclerosis (MS) remains a mystery, but scientists have gathered clues over the years. Now, research is pointing towards a virus that may be linked to MS.

Researchers found that people had a higher risk of MS in the year after having an attack of shingles - a virus also known as herpes zoster. Even though shingles may have increased the risk for MS, the overall risk of getting the damaging disease was still low.

"People with shingles may have a higher risk of MS."

According to Teresa Corona, M.D., and Jose Flores, M.D., from the National Institute of Neurology and Neurosurgery in Mexico, this study gives researchers a better idea of how viruses can affect the risk of MS in people who are already at risk because of their genetic makeup.

The study - which was conducted by Herng-Ching Lin, Ph.D., and colleagues at Taipei Medical University in Taiwan - involved 315,550 adults with shingles and 946,650 subjects without the virus.

The researchers found that those with shingles were almost four times more likely than those without the virus to get MS. They also found that MS would occur about 100 days after a person had a shingles attack.

The authors pointed out that even though shingles was associated with an higher MS risk, MS is not extremely common, especially among Asians. As such, the overall risk of getting the disease was still low.

More research needs to be done to support these findings. Corona and Flores say that future studies should involve populations from other parts of the world.

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Review Date: 
June 8, 2011
Last Updated:
June 11, 2011