There is a largely divergent body of literature regarding the relationship between Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection and brain inflammation in multiple sclerosis (MS). Here, we tested MS patients during relapse (n = 11) and in remission (n = 19) in addition to n = 22 healthy controls to study the correlation between the EBV- and brain-specific B cell response in the blood by enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISPOT) and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Cytomegalovirus (CMV) was used as a control antigen tested in n = 16 MS patients during relapse and in n = 35 patients in remission. Over the course of the study, n = 16 patients were untreated, while n = 33 patients received immunomodulatory therapy. The data show that there was a moderate correlation between the frequencies of EBV- and brain-reactive B cells in MS patients in remission. In addition we could detect a correlation between the B cell response to EBV and disease activity. There was no evidence of an EBV reactivation. Interestingly, there was also a correlation between the frequencies of CMV- and brain-specific B cells in MS patients experiencing an acute relapse and an elevated B cell response to CMV was associated with higher disease activity. The trend remained when excluding seronegative subjects but was non-significant. These data underline that viral infections might impact the immunopathology of MS, but the exact link between the two entities remains subject of controversy.
Keywords: B cells; CMV; EBV; ELISPOT; MS.