Belgian Scientists Claim MS Breakthrough

Two Belgian scientists say they have discovered the cause of multiple sclerosis (MS), fanning hopes that a vaccine for the nerve disease could be developed.
“The problem now is that this world scoop has to be acknowledged by the world,” one of the doctors, Ernest Van den Driessche, told Belgian BRTN radio Friday.

“This is the only problem. If I were a professor at Harvard or Cambridge, there would be no problem. Now we’re just doctors from the north of (the Belgian province of) Limburg,” he said.

The researchers, who are linked to a specialized MS hospital in Overpelt, northeastern Belgium, say MS is caused by antibodies against the herpes-virus 6, which causes a little-known children’s disease.

Van den Driessche said the disease, Exanthema Subitum, mostly affected children aged two to three, generally causing fever for three days followed by a rash which lasted a few hours.

The researchers say the antibodies cause MS at a later stage, usually between the ages of 20 and 40.

But Van den Driessche told BRTN that MS only developed in one person out of 1,000 who have the antibodies. “So there are probably a number of hereditary characteristics which determine whether one gets the disease or not,” he said.

Van den Driessche said he was hopeful that a vaccine could be developed.

“We are in a group of viruses…the herpes family…There are already several vaccines available in this group. So it is not at all utopian to say that a vaccine can be made,” he said.

He and his colleague, who was not named by BRTN, did not plan to make a vaccine. “If you give me a couple of billions (of francs) I could get started, yes,” Van den Driessche said. “It is …the task of the drugs industry to make the vaccine.”

In MS the body’s immune system wrongly attacks the insulation, called myelin, protecting nerves in the brain and spinal cord.

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