Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine - Barts and The London

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is the most common cause of non-traumatic disability in young people in the UK. It affects around 1 in 500 adults in the UK, and currently there is no cure.

MS is almost certainly caused by a combination of acquired, environmental risk factors in people who have an underlying (genetic) susceptibility to the disease. Environmental factors that have been implicated in MS development include:

  • infection with the Epstein Barr virus,
  • infectious mononucleosis (glandular fever),
  • low vitamin D levels,
  • smoking,
  • inhaled solvents.

Having a family member with MS increases risk. There are more than 100 genetic variants that appear to increase MS risk, mostly by a very small amount.

Current MS research themes in the PNU include:

  • Understanding the role of the Epstein Barr virus in contributing to MS risk, and examining strategies via which we can target it to ultimately prevent MS. 
  • Improving our understanding of vitamin D levels in people with MS in the UK, to inform potential future vitamin D trials in MS in the UK. This work is funded by the MS Society
  • Developing strategies to collect big MS datasets, to improve our understanding of adverse events associated with MS and MS treatments in a real-life UK population.