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OBJECTIVE: To ascertain if infectious mononucleosis is a risk factor for the development of multiple sclerosis (MS); and, if it is, whether its effect is close to or remote in time from the onset of MS. DESIGN: Analysis of database of linked abstracts of records of hospital admission and death. SETTING: Health region in central southern England. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: Ratio of rate of MS in a cohort of people admitted to hospital with infectious mononucleosis to the rate in a comparison cohort. RESULTS: Considering all time intervals from admission with infection to admission with MS, there was a non-significant increase of risk of MS in the infectious mononucleosis cohort (rate ratio 2.17, 95% confidence intervals 0.79 to 4.77). At the interval of 10 years or more, there was a significant increase in risk of MS (rate ratio 4.01, 1.48 to 8.93). The mean time from infectious mononucleosis to first admission with MS was 14 years. CONCLUSION: This study adds support to the evidence that Epstein-Barr virus, the cause of infectious mononucleosis, is associated with MS. Its role is probably as an initiator of the disease process of MS, or as a contributor to its early development, rather than as an activator of latent, existing disease.

Original publication




Journal article


J Epidemiol Community Health

Publication Date





1032 - 1035


Adolescent, Adult, Age Distribution, England, Hospitalization, Humans, Infectious Mononucleosis, Medical Record Linkage, Multiple Sclerosis, Risk Factors