Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory demyelinating disease of the central nervous system of unknown etiology. We tested the hypothesis that MS is caused by Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) in a cohort comprising more than 10 million young adults on active duty in the US military, 955 of whom were diagnosed with MS during their period of service. Risk of MS increased 32-fold after infection with EBV but was not increased after infection with other viruses, including the similarly transmitted cytomegalovirus. Serum levels of neurofilament light chain, a biomarker of neuroaxonal degeneration, increased only after EBV seroconversion. These findings cannot be explained by any known risk factor for MS and suggest EBV as the leading cause of MS.
BackgroundVaccination campaign to contrast the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) has raised the issue of vaccine immunogenicity in special populations such as people with multiple sclerosis (PwMS) on highly effective disease modifying treatments (DMTs). While humoral responses to SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccines have been well characterized in the general population and in PwMS, very little is known about cell-mediated responses in conferring protection from SARS-CoV-2 infection and severe coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19).MethodsPwMS on ocrelizumab, fingolimod or natalizumab, vaccinated with two doses of mRNABNT162b2 (Comirnaty®) vaccine were enrolled. Anti-Spike (S) and anti-Nucleoprotein (N) antibody titers, IFN-gamma production upon S and N peptide libraries stimulation, peripheral blood lymphocyte absolute counts were assessed after at least 1 month and within 4 months from vaccine second dose administration. A group of age and sex matched healthy donors (HD) were included as reference group. Statistical analysis was performed using GraphPad Prism 8.2.1.ResultsThirty PwMS and 9 HDs were enrolled. All the patients were negative for anti-N antibody detection, nor reported previous symptoms of COVID-19. Peripheral blood lymphocyte counts were assessed in PwMS showing: (i) reduction of circulating B-lymphocytes in PwMS on ocrelizumab; (ii) reduction of peripheral blood B- and T-lymphocyte absolute counts in PwMS on fingolimod and (iii) normal B- and T-lymphocyte absolute counts with an increase in circulating CD16+CD56+ NK-cells in PwMS on natalizumab. Three patterns of immunological responses were identified in PwMS. In patients on ocrelizumab, anti-S antibody were lacking or reduced, while T-cell responses were normal. In patients on fingolimod both anti-S titers and T-cell mediated responses were impaired. In patients on natalizumab both anti-S titers and T-cell responses were present and comparable to those observed in HD.ConclusionsThe evaluation of T-cell responses, anti-S titers and peripheral blood lymphocyte absolute count in PwMS on DMTs can help to better characterize the immunological response after SARS-CoV-2 vaccination. The evaluation of T-cell responses in longitudinal cohorts of PwMS will help to clarify their protective role in preventing SARS-CoV-2 infection and severe COVID-19. The correlation between DMT treatment and immunological responses to SARS-CoV-2 vaccines could help to better evaluate vaccination strategies in PwMS.