According to research from Harvard University, EBV is recognized as the strongest infectious risk factor for the development of multiple sclerosis (MS), along with other genetic and environmental factors. Therefore, the development of an EBV prophylactic vaccine (one that could prevent EBV infection) holds great promise in MS research.
Such a vaccine would work by educating the immune system to produce antibodies to neutralise EBV and also teach immune cells to remove EBV infected cells, boosting the vaccines efficiency. EBV uses several proteins to bind and gain entry into human cells. These proteins are thought to be an excellent target for EBV prophylactic vaccine development.
The rapid and successful development of mRNA vaccine technology, to address the COVID-19 pandemic, is now being used to develop an mRNA EBV vaccine. Moderna has recently began phase I of the clinical trial of its EBV vaccine. In this phase of the trial, they are investigating the safety and tolerability of their EBV vaccine in 272 healthy adults in the United States.
They will also investigate potential challenges such as, can this mRNA vaccine provide long-term immunity against EBV? and will boosters be required to maintain high levels of neutralising antibodies and to keep the immune cell response strong? (2). Although this study is at an early stage, the potential outcome is exciting. The successful development of a safe and effective EBV prophylactic vaccine will pave the way for a definitive MS prevention study, where EBV would be removed as a risk factor, therefore MS could be prevented. The estimated primary completion date for Moderna’s EBV vaccine trial is 24th June 2023 (3).