MS virology

Research group
Active research
Project owner
Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology

Short description

This research group is committed to the association between the human herpes virus Epstein-Barrvirus (EBV) and multiple sclerosis, a chronic disease in the central nervous system. The group mainly uses virological analyses in MS and presymptomatic MS conditions.


Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects young adults and occurs in approximately 2 promille of our population. The disease comes from a chronic inflammation which attacks the myelin sheaths on nerve fibres in the brain and spinal cord. Treatment (immunotherapy) partly ameliorates this inflammation.

Recent years showed a number of factors that increase the risk of MS, including vitamin D deficiency, smoking, and infection with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). These discoveries raised hopes that prophylactic measures against these risk factors may curb the occurrence of MS (similar to the decrease of vascular disease from widespread prophylaxis).

EBV infection holds a unique position among these risk factors as it may even be a prerequisite for the disease. In particular, EBV increases the risk of subsequent MS when it manifests as infectious mononucleosis (glandular fever), a severe throat infection occurring in the upper teens. Vaccination against infectious mononucleosis was proven to be effective but was accomplished in small groups only.

Our research

The aim of our group is to understand whether there is a causal relationship between EBV and MS. We perform long-term follow-up after infectious mononucleosis and investigate biobank material obtained before the onset of MS. We analyze this material in regards to EBV antibodies and immunological signal transducers, and endeavour to elucidate a chain of events from EBV, EBV sequelae, to early stages of MS. 

In addition, the disposition for MS is genetically constrained. Our group investigates genetic factors controlling the immune defence, directly or indirectly influencing the risk of MS. We also examine the genetic background of the Guillain-Barré syndrome which is related to MS in that it attacks the myelin sheath, although with an acute limited course, making it easier for us to analyze. 

We collaborate with research groups in virology, neurochemistry and genetics. Balancing exogenous risk factors, EBV infection and infection related genetics, should give us an indication on the potential for prophylaxis against MS.

Group members

Bengt Skoog, Specialist Doctor, Associate Professor 
Sara Haghighi, Specialist Doctor, PhD, Affiliated Researcher
Helen Tedeholm, Physician, PhD, Researcher
Daniel Jons, Specialist Doctor, PhD


Tomas Bergström, Senior Researcher at the Department of Infectious Diseases, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden.
Tomas Bergström's profile page

Kristoffer Hellstrand, Professor at the Department of Infectious Diseases, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden.
Kristoffer Hellstrand's profile page

Jan Hillert, Professor at the Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden. Jan is also chairman of the Swedish Neuroregister.
Jan Hillert's profile page at KI
The Swedish Neuro Register (in Swedish)

Peter Sundström, Associate Professor at the Department of Clinical Sciences, University of Umeå, Umeå, Sweden.
Peter Sundström's profile page at Umeå

A special thanks to Peter Sundström, whose efforts have been fundamental to the progress of our projects.

Tip for further reading

The research group belongs to the Dept. for Clinical Neuroscience, Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology at the faculty of medicine Sahlgrenska Academy