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Study: Common Virus + Low Sunlight Exposure May Increase Risk of MS

New research suggests that people who are exposed to low levels of sunlight coupled with a history of having a common virus known as mononucleosis may be at greater odds of developing multiple sclerosis (MS) than those without the virus. The research is published in the April 19, 2011, print issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

“MS is more common at higher latitudes, farther away from the equator,” said George C. Ebers, MD, with the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “Since the disease has been linked to environmental factors such as low levels of sun exposure and a history of infectious mononucleosis, we wanted to see whether the two together would help explain the variance in the disease across the United Kingdom.”

Infectious mononucleosis is a disease caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, which is a Herpes virus that is extremely common but causes no symptoms in most people. However, when a person contracts the virus as a teenager or adult, it often leads to infectious mononucleosis. The body makes vitamin D when exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) light.

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