A new study led by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center revealed that EBV virus which causes kissing disease also known as Mononucleosis can also develop seven other major diseases in some people.
Those diseases are systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), celiac disease, and type 1 diabetes. Combined, these seven diseases affect nearly 8 million people in the U.S.
EBV stands for Epstein-Barr virus and had become an unusually common virus which infected more than 90% of the population of age 20 in the US and other developed nation. a person once infected by this virus remain in them for their whole life.
Mononucleosis, which causes weeks of extreme fatigue, is the most common illness caused by EBV. It is also called as ‘kissing diseases’ because it is transmitted primarily via contact with saliva.
During their study researchers found that EBV produces a protein known as EBNA2 which binds alongside human genome which is linked to these 7 diseases.
When EBV virus infection strikes, the EBV hijacks our immune system, conquers B cell and reprograms them in a way that virus starts controlling all their function. The EBNA2 transcription factor is helping the virus to take over the control of infected B cell and how the body reacts to these infected B cells.
This new study shows that all these unrelated diseases are linked by a common set of abnormal transcription factors and all are affected by EBANA2 protein. When this protein bind to a particular transcription factor, lupus is caused when to other specific transcription factor risk of multiple sclerosis rises and so on.
“Normally, we think of the transcription factors that regulate human gene expression as being human,” Kottyan says. “But in this case, when this virus infects cells, the virus makes its own transcription factors, and those sit on the human genome at lupus risk variants (and at the variants for other diseases) and that’s what we suspect is increasing risk for the disease.”
It remains unclear how many cases of the seven diseases listed in the study can be traced to prior EBV infection. More genomic analyses involving many more patients with these diseases will be required to make reliable estimates.