Vitamin D, Epstein-Barr virus, and endogenous retroviruses in multiple sclerosis - facts and hypotheses

J Integr Neurosci. 2021 Mar 30;20(1):233-238. doi: 10.31083/j.jin.2021.01.392.


The pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis (MS) remains poorly understood. Presumably, MS is caused by multiple environmental, epigenetic, and genetic factors. Among them, human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and vitamin D have been suggested to play a role in the pathogenesis and course of MS. Because vitamin D can affect the immune system and infections, it can be hypothesized that there is a close interplay between vitamins, EBV and ERV in the pathogenesis of MS. Here, we summarize the important data on vitamin D, including polymorphisms in genes related to vitamin D metabolism, EBV and ERV, in the pathogenesis of MS and create hypotheses regarding their interactions. Data indicate that vitamin D has a strong impact on viral infections and interferes with EBV infection, while EBV is capable of activating silent ERVs. We believe that EBV could be the missing link between vitamin D and ERV in MS pathogenesis.

Keywords: Epstein-Barr virus (EBV); Genetic polymorphisms; Human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs); Vitamin D.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Endogenous Retroviruses / pathogenicity*
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / pathogenicity*
  • Humans
  • Multiple Sclerosis* / etiology
  • Multiple Sclerosis* / genetics
  • Multiple Sclerosis* / metabolism
  • Multiple Sclerosis* / virology
  • Vitamin D / metabolism*


  • Vitamin D