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Understand the relationship between the Epstein-Barr virus, contracted by Anitta, and multiple sclerosis


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Last Saturday (3), Anitta announced that she was diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus, which causes mononucleosis or “kissing disease”. The revelation was made at the launch of the documentary “Eu”, in which Ludmila Dayer portrays multiple sclerosis.

The singer’s account raised doubts about the relationship between the virus and the development of multiple sclerosis. However, the two diseases are different and the relationship between them is investigated by the scientific community.

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EBV, as Epstein-Barr is also known, is a common virus among humans. According to immunologist Ana Paula Castro, its prevalence among adults can range from 80% to 95%, which means that almost the entire population has contact with and is infected at some point in life.

Acute mononucleosis is the main clinical manifestation of this virus, transmitted by saliva and close contact with infected people. It is because of this method of spread that it became known as the “kissing disease”. But EBV can also be transmitted through other forms of contact.

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“It is an extremely common pediatric infection and affects mainly until the beginning of the adult phase”, explains Castro.

The infection can cause symptoms such as fever, malaise, sore throat and tiredness. Since these resemble those of the flu or tonsillitis, the disease is often confused with others.

According to Castro, the evolution is benign most of the time and, after a few days, the symptoms usually go away.

From the herpesvirus family, EBV is not related to the transmission of herpes, but the viruses share a point: “After the infection, ‘it lives in us'”, says Castro. That is, even with the end of the symptoms of mononucleosis, the virus remains in the human body.

This is what can cause chronic EBV to develop. “When there is some specific factor that leads to a decrease in immunity, there may be a reactivation of the virus”, explains Castro. If this condition exists, the person may have persistent fever, lymph nodes, enlarged spleen and liver, and inflammatory syndromes. And these symptoms persist for months.

More rare than mononucleosis, chronic EBV is associated with very specific factors that result in a severe decrease in immunity, such as cancer.

What about multiple sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis is a rare disease in which the protective covering of neurons, the myelin sheath, is attacked by the immune system itself. She has no cure, but there are treatments to delay the progression of the disease and ease the symptoms.

A possible relationship between EBV infection and the development of multiple sclerosis was investigated by a study led by researchers at Harvard University, published in Science this January.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 10 million US military personnel, 955 of whom developed multiple sclerosis. According to the study, most of these cases occurred in people who had been infected with EBV. However, the symptoms of multiple sclerosis only begin to appear on average ten years after the first contact with the virus.

Despite this relationship, it is not necessarily EBV infection that leads to the development of multiple sclerosis. It should be seen more as a risk factor. “Perhaps, due to some genetic characteristics, EBV can be a trigger, but multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that can be caused by many factors,” says Castro.

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