Are People With HIV Less Likely to Develop Multiple Sclerosis?

A new study sheds surprising light on the relationship between HIV and MS.

BY Lynn De La Cruz

August 08 2014 11:52 AM ET

A new study published in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery & Psychiatry shows that people with HIV reportedly have a much lower risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease where your immune system attacks the protective sheath that covers your nerves, according to HealthDay.

Researchers have found two possible reasons for this case. The first is due to the fact that the immune system is under constant suppression because of the HIV infection itself. The second reason is possibly due to the antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV. These findings could help researchers find new ways to treat MS.

More than 20,000 HIV patients and 5.3 million people in England were followed during this seven-year study. In that period of time, only seven people were diagnosed with MS instead of the expected amount of 18 people. This shows that people with HIV seemed to have a 60 percent less chance of developing MS than those who did not have HIV. Also, the longer a person has had HIV, the less likely they were to develop MS.

One of the study’s authors reports that if future studies demonstrate a causal protective effect of HIV and/or its treatment with the same magnitude as this one, then “this would be the largest protective effect of any factor yet observed in relation to the development of MS.”

Although this study links HIV to a lower risk of MS, it has not yet proven that the HIV infection or HIV treatments were the reason for reduced risk.

Tags: Research

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