Although the cause of MS is still unknown, several studies have suggested that an infectious agent, like a virus, may be involved. However researchers have not been able to identify a single virus as the trigger for MS.
Even though MS and HIV infection are two of the most documented conditions in clinical medicine, there is only one reported case of a patient with both MS and HIV.
In this case, the patient’s MS symptoms resolved completely after starting antiretroviral therapy and remained so for more than 12 years of follow-up.
As the pathogenesis of MS has been linked to several viruses, antiretroviral therapy for HIV may coincidentally treat or prevent progression of MS.
To test this hypothesis, a group of researchers in England used one of the world’s largest linked medical data sets to study the relationship between HIV and developing MS.
The total number of people with HIV in this study was 21,207 and the follow-up period was about seven years.
The researchers found a negative association between HIV and MS – meaning that having HIV, and presumably being on antiretroviral therapy, reduced the risk of developing MS.
However, there are several possible explanations for these findings. The next step might be to carry out other studies on the use of antiretroviral drugs in patients with different types of MS.
The first clinical study with Raltegravir, an antiretroviral drug used to treat HIV infection, is already recruiting relapsing-remitting MS patients in the UK.