An Absence of Epstein-Barr Virus Reactivation and Associations with Disease Activity in People with Multiple Sclerosis Undergoing Therapeutic Hookworm Vaccination

Vaccines (Basel). 2020 Aug 28;8(3):487. doi: 10.3390/vaccines8030487.


Background: Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection is strongly associated with multiple sclerosis (MS). Helminth infection can downregulate antiviral immune responses, potentially protecting against MS, but with a theoretical risk for reactivating latent EBV infection. Objective: To investigate parameters of EBV infection and their relationship with disease activity in people with MS (PwMS) therapeutically vaccinated with Necator americanus (hookworm). Methods: Sequential serum samples from 51 PwMS; 26 therapeutically infected (25 larvae) with N. americanus and 25 controls were tested for EBV virus capsid antigen (VCA) IgG and IgM, EBV nuclear antigen-1 (EBNA-1) IgG, and EBV early antigen (EA) IgG. Disease activity was assessed by periodic MRI. Significance was set at p < 0.05. Results: All PwMS were EBV VCA IgG and EBNA-1 IgG positive, and 35.2% were EBV EA IgG positive. EBV antibody levels were generally stable, and EBV reactivation in PwMS was not demonstrated by significant increases in IgG titre over 12 months. Disease activity was most frequent in PwMS possessing high levels of EBV VCA IgG (>600 units/mL) or EBNA-1 IgG (>150 units/mL); however, there was no association with hookworm treatment. Interpretation: Therapeutic hookworm vaccination was not associated with EBV reactivation. Multiple sclerosis disease activity was associated with high levels of EBV VCA IgG or EBNA-1 IgG.

Keywords: Epstein–Barr virus; disease activity; multiple sclerosis; therapeutic hookworm vaccination.