Reviewing the evidence for viruses as environmental risk factors for ALS: A new perspective

Cytokine. 2018 Aug;108:173-178. doi: 10.1016/j.cyto.2018.04.010. Epub 2018 Apr 21.


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a devastating neurodegenerative disease whose etiology remains poorly understood. Since the genetic basis of disease is known in only a small subset of cases, there has been substantial interest in determining whether environmental factors act as triggers of ALS. Viruses have received longstanding attention as potential ALS triggers. Yet, existing studies have not provided a compelling case for causation. This review summarizes the evidence supporting a link between viral infection and motor neuron disease, with a focus on ALS. Limitations of prior studies are discussed and contextualized, and recent work that has provided stronger mechanistic evidence for viruses in disease pathogenesis is highlighted. Finally, we offer a new perspective on the association of viruses with ALS, and underscore the need for multidisciplinary approaches bridging neurology and infectious diseases research to move the field forward in the future.

Keywords: ALS; ALS review; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Inflammation; Neurodegeneration; Virus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / pathology*
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / virology*
  • Animals
  • Environment*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / virology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Virus Diseases / complications*
  • Viruses / pathogenicity

Supplementary concepts

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis 2, Juvenile

Grant support