A recent study in Taiwan has brought to light a probable link between that extremely nasty and disabling autoimmune disease Multiple Sclerosis, and our old friend Varicella Zoster (which also calls itself Chickenpox or Shingles). Some sort of link had already been suspected between the herpes viruses (a band of microscopic ‘hood thugs which lurk in the nervous system, sneering at passers-by and occasionally going on a rampage) and MS, which is the result of damage to the myelin sheath that protects our nerves and enables them to deliver their electric messages despite Rain, Sleet, or Glom of Nit. However, this is the first study to say: yes, there is.
The trouble is, they can’t yet say what the link is. Does the slow onset of MS (the study took cases that were diagnosed with MS up to a year after the shingles attack) trigger the shingles episode? Or was it shingles that kickstarted the MS? Is V. Zoster the only herpes virus involved, come to that?
Fortunately MS is a very rare disease (especially among Asians, lucky sods). In my life so far, I have met only two people suffering from it. It tends to attack the young, between the ages of 20 and 40. If a causal link can be established to something like V. Zoster for which a vaccine exists (once you’re infected it is incurable, although drugs like acyclovir may help reduce the severity of episodes), this may open the way to more effective treatments and prevention for MS.