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Risk of MS increased by virus and low sunlight

19th April 2011

Researchers have warned that the combination of not getting enough sunlight and catching glandular fever could heighten the danger of multiple sclerosis (MS).

sun1

The disease is more prevalent the further away a person lives from the equator.

The study, published in Neurology, said lower levels of sunshine could have an impact on how the body fights infection.

Around 100,000 people in England have MS and the disease is more prevalent in the north of the country than the south.

The MS Society is doing its own study into whether low levels of Vitamin D in Scotland influences the fact that it has the most cases of MS in the world, with 10,500 cases.

The researchers, from the University of Oxford, examined hospital admissions in England from 1998-2005.

They discovered 56,681 MS cases and 14,621 cases of glandular fever (caused by the Epstein-Barr virus).

The researchers also looked at information provided by NASA on the intensity of sunshine.

They found that just by looking at sunlight intensity, they had an explanation for 61% of the variety in the number of MS cases across England.

When they looked at the intensity of sunlight and the incidences of glandular fever, there was an explanation for 72% of the variation in MS cases.

Professor George Ebers, from the University of Oxford, said: "It's possible that vitamin D (which is made when the skin is exposed to sunlight) deficiency may lead to an abnormal response to the Epstein-Barr virus."

"More research should be done on whether increasing UVB exposure or using vitamin D supplements and possible treatments or vaccines for the Epstein-Barr virus could lead to fewer cases of MS."

 

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