Epstein-Barr virus might increase risk of developing seven major diseases, according to a study conducted on April 16, 2018.
Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is best known for causing mononucleosis. Diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), celiac disease, and type 1 diabetes are the seven major diseases that are at risk due to EBV virus. Around 8 million people in the U.S. are affected by these seven diseases.
According to the study, a protein produced by the Epstein-Barr virus, which is called as EBNA2 binds to multiple locations in the human genome that are associated with these seven diseases. John Harley, Director of the Center for Autoimmune Genomics and Etiology (CAGE) at Cincinnati Children’s said, “Now, using genomic methods that were not available 10 years ago, it appears that components made by the virus interact with human DNA in the places where the genetic risk of disease is increased. And not just for lupus, but all these other diseases, too.”
In the U.S. and other emerging economies, over 90 percent of the population is infected by EBV at the age of 20. Once infected by this virus, it remains in people for their entire lives. In the past years, EBV has been linked to few other rare conditions, including certain cancers of the lymphatic system by scientists.
In the study, over 60 human proteins were linked to seven diseases. Similar analytic techniques were applied to find out connections between all 1,600 known transcription factors and the known gene variants associated with more than 200 diseases. It still remains unclear about how many cases of the seven diseases listed in the study can be traced to prior EBV infection.