EBV Is an MS Box I Can Finally Tick

There are a lot of reasons I shouldn’t have multiple sclerosis (MS).

I’m not saying that I don’t have it; I do. Nor am I pulling the “why me?” card or questioning previously established scientific principles.

I’m just saying that I never fit the typical MS profile:

I’m a man (nearly three-quarters of people diagnosed with MS are women). I never smoked cigarettes. I was always fit (until about a year before my MS diagnosis, when fatigue really started to be a factor). And no other member of my blood relations has ever had the disease.

There have always been so many boxes for MS that I just did not tick.

Even the recent research appearing to confirm the link between Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and MS left me outside this new norm, as I have never had infectious mononucleosis (which is usually caused by EBV).

One study published early this year seemed so convincing to some clinicians and researchers that they are advocating strongly that EBV is the causative factor (or maybe even a continuing culprit) for MS. I even asked the question as to whether or not an EBV vaccine might see the end of MS in the next generation to be born.

All the while, I was left wondering how the square peg of MS fitted into the very not-square hole that is my genetics.

This week, however, I got some news …

A Blood Test Reveals an MS Risk Factor

I was in my doctor’s office for semiannual blood work and to get my prescriptions refilled. Where I live, prescriptions for even routine medication last for only six months. So I usually take advantage of my appointment to have a quick once-over and make sure I’m moving in the right direction (or at least not in the wrong one).

My weight is moving in the right direction. My blood pressure is “perfect” (his word, not mine). Heart, lungs — all of it is in good working order. Then we looked at info from my blood test results from my spring visit.

“Bad” cholesterol is declining. White cell count is normal. Vitamin D levels are up in the normal range. PSA level is that of a man 25 years my junior. I’m living up to my claim to be a “healthy man with a chronic illness.”

Then we checked the antibody test I’d requested at my last appointment.

And look at that! At some point in my life, like about 80 percent of Americans, I was exposed to EBV. There is finally an MS norm to which I can be officially subscribed. I show positive antibodies, which indicates that I have had prior exposure to EBV, even though I never had any symptoms.

Does Having This Risk Factor Change My MS?

So what does that do for me? How does that change my disease? Will it change the course of how I manage my MS? “Nothing,” “not at all,” and “no,” are the respective answers to those questions.

Knowing that I share a commonality that some researchers consider a linchpin for eventually developing the disease that I’ve lived with for over half my life, however, makes me feel a little bit more normal.

Normal in my abnormality. Normal with this new normal with which we strive to cope and live well. Normal after all this time of feeling like I was somehow an honorary member of the team, even though I wore the uniform backward.

I have MS, and there is nothing normal about that, but at least I feel like there might be one somewhat normal reason I’m living with this abnormality.

Wishing you and your family the best of health.



My book Chef Interrupted is available on Amazon. Follow me on the Life With MS Facebook page and on Twitter, and read more on Life With Multiple Sclerosis.

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