Acta neurologica Scandinavica 2017 05 23() doi 10.1111/ane.12775
Multiple sclerosis is an immune-mediated disease with an environmental component. According to a long-standing but unproven hypothesis dating to initial descriptions of multiple sclerosis (MS) at the end of the 19th century, viruses are either directly or indirectly implicated in MS pathogenesis. Whether viruses in MS are principally causal or simply contributory remains to be proven, but many viruses or viral elements-predominantly Epstein-Barr virus, human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs) and human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) but also less common viruses such as Saffold and measles viruses-are associated with MS. Here, we present an up-to-date and comprehensive review of the main candidate viruses implicated in MS pathogenesis and summarize how these viruses might cause or lead to the hallmark demyelinating and inflammatory lesions of MS. We review data from epidemiological, animal and in vitro studies and in doing so offer a transdisciplinary approach to the topic. We argue that it is crucially important not to interpret "absence of evidence" as "evidence of absence" and that future studies need to focus on distinguishing correlative from causative associations. Progress in the MS-virus field is expected to arise from an increasing body of knowledge on the interplay between viruses and HERVs in MS. Such interactions suggest common HERV-mediated pathways downstream of viral infection that cause both neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration. We also comment on the limitations of existing studies and provide future research directions for the field.