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,
- 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.