Members of the human Herpesviridae family are candidates for representing the macroenvironmental factors associated with multiple sclerosis (MS) pathogenesis. To verify the possible role of human herpesviruses (HHVs) as triggering or aggravating factors in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis clinical outcome, we studied the prevalence of all eight human herpesviruses in whole blood samples collected from 51 MS patients and from 51 healthy controls. The presence of DNA of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2), varicella zoster virus (VZV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), human cytomegalovirus (HCMV), human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6), human herpesvirus 7 (HHV-7) and human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8) was searched by specific nested polymerase chain reaction. HHVs were significantly more prevalent in the blood of MS patients than in those of the controls (P < 10(-4)). HSV-1, HSV-2, HCMV and HHV-8 were negative in both MS patients and controls samples. In MS patients, EBV, HHV-7, HHV-6 and VZV were detected in 31.3%, 33.3%, 5.8% and 7.8% of samples, respectively, compared with 3.9%, 9.8%, 1.96% and 1.96%, respectively, of samples from controls. We found a statistically significant difference only for EBV DNA and for HHV-7 DNA prevalence (P < 0.001 and P = 0.03). Although these results indicate lack of apparent association in terms of gender, type of diagnosis, symptoms, disease score and β interferon treatment between EBV or HHV-7 to MS among Tunisian patients, heterogeneity related to genetic polymorphism as well as geographical distribution of the disease and of pathogens may be of significance.
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