MS Research Spotlight: Ancient Viruses, MS Mimics, Virtual House Calls & More

MS Research Spotlight covers key research news from the last month.

Ruling out MS mimics to avoid MS misdiagnoses

Italian researchers reviewed, in an observational real-world clinical study, the many MS “mimics” and the rate in which MS was misdiagnosed in a community of 667 subjects.1

Mimics are conditions which closely resemble MS, such as certain vascular problems, migraine, and neuromyelitis optica (NMO).

The researchers used diagnostics such as brain and spinal cord MRI, spinal tap, blood tests to identify disease activity, then conducted a 3-year follow-up.1

They found that 60 percent of their subjects were diagnosed correctly using criteria established by the McDonald protocol, while almost 25 percent were found to have an MS mimic, and not MS itself.

Almost half of the “mimic” diagnoses were revealed after identifying nonspecific neurological symptoms, the absence of oligoclonal bands in the cerebrospinal fluid, the presence of atypical lesions, and normal results in visual evoked potential tests. The researchers concluded that these specific “red flag” findings should be scrutinized further before confirming an MS diagnosis.1

Potential new disability scale may more accurately measure brain function in people with MS

For many people with MS, the tool used to assess one’s disability—especially relating to cognitive impairment—is the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS). However, some neurologists believe the EDSS lacks accuracy and sensitivity.

An Argentine neurology team utilized a different brain-function assessment, based on the brain functions-functional system (BF-FS) portion of the EDSS, in a population of MS patients. The BICAMS test (Brief International Cognitive Assessment for MS) was employed to measure cognitive impairment, then compared to traditional EDSS methods.2

Results showed the BICAMS was simple, easy to administer, and changed the final EDSS score in about 20 percent of the patients tested. This significant difference may support modification of the EDSS to include more accurate scoring criteria.2

The role of ancient viruses in MS inflammation

Inflammation is at the root of MS demyelination activity. Researchers at the Epigenetic Regulation Unit at the Institut Pasteur in Paris have discovered a link between MS inflammation and the reactivation of certain “ancient viruses which were inserted in our DNA during the evolution of mankind.”3

How is this possible? These viruses were neutralized during evolution and are no longer able to perform viral activities. However, their leftover genetic sequences contain information about viral behavior which living cells can detect. When detected, they mistake these “nonviral viruses” for real infections and launch inflammation as an act of self-defense.3 This discovery may lead to better MS management by inhibiting these false inflammatory responses.

Would you visit a telemedicine clinic for your MS concerns? These people did

Telemedicine is quickly becoming a “virtual house call” (VHC) option for many people. It can increase access to patients who are limited by geography, mobility, or both. They generally require an audio-visual link between patient and doctor to work.

Research via a university-based MS clinic recently looked at the potential feasibility of VHCs for people with MS.4 They looked at the likelihood that these study participants would choose and recommend telemedicine visits over live, in-person visits, if given the opportunity.

A whopping 97 percent said they would recommend this option; 94 percent said they found it easy to connect to their healthcare providers through this virtual route. Results suggest that not only are VHCs feasible and easy for patients to adopt, they’re also appealing to physicians and saves money.

Can birth month better predict MS risk?

You may have heard that one’s birth month might be one of the “causes” of your MS. Recently, a small study performed a meta-analysis of previously published studies in PubMed and Scopus to examine the link between birth month and the development of MS. Comparisons involved 24 different populations composed of over 145,000 subjects.5

Their analysis suggests that spring births (April, March, and May) are significantly associated with higher rates of MS than those subjects with MS born in the fall, especially November.5

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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