A DOSE of Epstein Barr Virus that causes glandular fever as a child and high dose prescription vitamin D could be the key to slashing Australia’s high rate of the debilitating Multiple Sclerosis disease.
The distance of our major capital cities from the equator means Australians are at greater risk of the disabling disease that attacks the protective insulation around nerve fibres (myelin) in the brain and spinal cord.
Every day four Australians are diagnosed with MS, the average age of diagnosis is just 30 years of age and people living in Hobart are seven times more susceptible to the disease than those living in North Queensland. The closer you are to the equator when you grow up, the less likely you are to get MS.
Currently, there is no cure and the breakthrough treatments that are available have serious side effects.
Researchers who have identified the genes linked to MS want to trial a special prescription vitamin D to see if it can help treat and prevent the disease that afflicts 23,000 Australians.
And Sydney University Professor David Booth says people who contact Epstein Barr Virus that causes glandular fever before the age of ten are four times less likely to contract MS while those who get it later in life are up to 20 times more likely to get the disease.
Professor Booth has helped identify the genetic key to how vitamin D may be protective against Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
“Vitamin D is the master regulator of which genes are turned on and off in a cell and they control the body’s immune response,” he says.
These genes are implicated not just in MS but also Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, lupus and Coealiac disease, he says.
“Now we know vitamin D genes increase your risk of auto-immune diseases, if we can track down what vitamin D does we can better use it to treat the problem, he says.
MS Research is currently funding a trial to test over the counter vitamin D supplements in preventing MS.
Professor Booth says there could also be merit in testing high dose vitamin D prescription drug paracalcitol as a prevention and treatment for MS.
This drug gets around the body’s regulation of vitamin D levels.
Other ways you can reduce your risk of MS is to stop smoking, get enough sunlight, reduce salt in your diet.