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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

The multiple causes of multiple sclerosis: the importance of age of infections in childhood.

The geographic distribution of multiple sclerosis (MS) may relate to the age of initial exposure and degree of sensitization to common viruses or bacteria which have proteins with epitopes (antigenic determinants) which are homologous with potentially encephalitogenic peptides in central myelin proteins, such as basic protein and proteolipid protein. Comparable homologies may exist for the as-yet-undefined nonencephalitogenic myelin antigen(s) which evoke demyelinating factors (probably complement-fixing antibodies). Many of these homologous epitopes occur in microorganisms that also possess adjuvant activity for evoking not only the sensitized T-cells but also the antibodies that cross-react with the target antigens in central myelin. If sufficient sensitization to myelin basic protein or proteolipid protein occurs, especially in infections of young adults, the individual develops acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, exactly comparable to ordinary acute experimental allergic encephalomyelitis (EAE). If very young children are infected, however, practically complete resistance develops, and neither acute disseminated encephalomyelitis nor MS follows. In between these two extremes, especially in slightly older children in whom insufficient sensitization occurs to induce acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, the individual may become resistant to acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, but susceptible to chronic relapsing or progressive disseminated encephalomyelitis, otherwise generally recognized as MS. This is exactly comparable to a recently described variant of chronic EAE in which demyelinating antibodies and large subpial plaques of demyelination occur. The similarity of this form of chronic EAE or chronic disseminated encephalomyelitis to one form of MS is emphasized.[1]


  1. The multiple causes of multiple sclerosis: the importance of age of infections in childhood. Alvord, E.C., Jahnke, U., Fischer, E.H., Kies, M.W., Driscoll, B.F., Compston, D.A. J. Child Neurol. (1987) [Pubmed]
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