The purpose of this study was to investigate intrathecal production and affinity distributions of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-specific antibodies in multiple sclerosis (MS) and controls.
Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and serum concentrations, quantitative intrathecal synthesis, oligoclonal bands (OCB) patterns and affinity distributions of anti-Epstein Barr virus (EBV) antibodies were evaluated in 100 relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) patients and 200 age- and sex-matched controls with other inflammatory neurological disorders (OIND) and other noninflammatory neurological disorders (NIND).
Levels of anti-EBNA-1 and anti-viral capsid antigen (VCA) IgG were different in both the CSF (P <0.0001 and P <0.01, respectively) and serum (P <0.001 and P <0.05, respectively) among the RRMS, OIND and NIND. An intrathecal synthesis of anti-EBNA-1 IgG and anti-VCA IgG, as indicated by the antibody index, was underrepresented in the RRMS, OIND and NIND (range 1 to 7%). EBV-specific OCB were detected in 24% of the RRMS patients and absent in the controls. High-affinity antibodies were more elevated in the RRMS and in the OIND than in the NIND for CSF anti-EBNA-1 IgG (P <0.0001) and anti-VCA IgG (P <0.0001). After treatment with increasing concentrations of sodium thiocyanate, the EBV-specific IgG OCB had low affinity in all 24 RRMS patients analyzed.
Our findings do not support the potential role of an EBV persistent brain chronic infection in MS and suggest that an EBV-specific intrathecal oligoclonal IgG production can occur in a subset of MS patients as part of humoral polyreactivity driven by chronic brain inflammation.