multiple sclerosis (MS)

Mothers who breastfeed show reduced risk of MS

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No association was seen with number of pregnancies, use of hormonal contraceptives, or age at first birth.

Mothers who breastfeed for at least 15 months over one or more pregnancies may be less likely to develop multiple sclerosis (MS), according to new research.

In a study published in Neurology , 397 women with MS or its precursor, clinically isolated syndrome, were compared to 433 controls matched for race and age. The women were given in-person questionnaires about pregnancies, breastfeeding, hormonal contraceptive use and other factors.

Women who had breastfed for a cumulative amount of 15 months or more with one or more children, were 53 per cent less likely to develop MS or clinically isolated syndrome than women who had a total of 0-4 months of breastfeeding. Women who were age 15 or older at the time of their first menstrual cycle were 44 per cent less likely to develop MS than women who were 11 years old or younger at the time of their first menstruation.

The number of years a woman ovulated was not associated with MS risk. No association was seen with number of pregnancies, use of hormonal contraceptives or age at first birth.

High coffee consumption may reduce likelihood of MS

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Individuals who drank more than six cups a day had a 30 per cent lower risk of developing MS.

Once again, a study provides evidence for the beneficial effects of coffee. According to the study published in “The Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry”, high coffee consumption is linked to a lower risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS).

Scientists from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm (Sweden) based their findings on two representative studies from Sweden and the USA. In total, 2.780 MS patients were compared with some 3,970 healthy controls. All participants were interviewed about their daily coffee consumption across different time periods, ranging from adolescence to when they reached 40 years, or older.

Both studies showed that individuals with lower daily coffee consumption were at a higher risk of MS, even after data adjustment for potential influencing factors. In the Swedish study, people who drank more than six cups of coffee every day (more than 900 millilitres) had a 28 to 30 per cent lower risk of MS compared to those who never drank coffee. In the US study, the likelihood of developing MS was 26 to 31 per cent lower if people drank more than 948 millilitres of coffee daily over a period of several years.

Of course, no firm conclusions about cause and effect can be drawn from an observational study, emphasised the researchers. Nevertheless, the results provide further evidence of caffeine’s neuroprotective effect, which may even be able to prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. In any case, the role of coffee and its components in the development of these diseases clearly needs to be further researched.

Some herpes viruses can infect neurons

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Some gammaherpesviruses may underlie some symptoms of neurological diseases, providing potential new treatment options.

A certain group of herpes viruses can – contrary to previous assumptions – infect human neurons. This is the outcome of a study based on laboratory trials, published in “mBio”. Accordingly, the subgroup of gammaherpesviruses may be the underlying cause for some symptoms of neurological diseases.

Scientists from the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, conducted the experiments because the cerebrospinal fluid of patients with neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis (MS) and cerebellar ataxia, teemed with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). In lab experiments, clinicians then tested if EBV and the Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpes virus (KSHV), which belongs to the family of gammeherpesviruses, can infect fetal and neuroblastoma cells.

In both cell types, contact with the viruses (marked with a fluorescent protein) led to the appearance of fluorescent signals in the infected cells and the appearance of key viral proteins. Furthermore, the liquid in which the viruses were grown, contained functional virus particles capable of infecting other cells. Treatment with the drug acyclovir, which inhibits EBV and related viruses, reduced the production of virus particles.

Although causality has not yet been confirmed, the virus seems to be associated with the neuropathology, said the researchers. It may therefore be responsible for some of the symptoms, and antiviral medications could present a suitable therapeutic strategy, say the study authors.