Australian scientists are showing promising results with a new treatment for advanced multiple sclerosis (MS).
It’s early days, but it has changed the life of Dr Gary Allen, a 43-year-old academic with secondary progressive MS who agreed to be a guinea pig.
He was given six weeks of treatment, which resulted in a sustained boost of energy, reduced pain and increased productivity at work.
“It’s impossible to overstate the improvements,” said Dr Allen.
The study on the treatment is a high point in the career of Professor Michael Pender, who has been researching MS for 33 years.
In 2003 he proposed a new theory that people with MS have impaired immunity to Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).
There is a growing body of evidence to support his view that this allows the virus to accumulate in the brain and cause MS.
EBV is a well known as a cause of glandular fever.
The new treatment boosts the body’s ability to fight the virus, said Prof Pender, of The University of Queensland.
“EBV gets out of control in the brain of MS patients.
“Our study shows that controlling it can stop the disease from getting worse and allow some recovery of function,” said Prof Pender, who worked with Professor Rajiv Khanna of the QIMR Berghofer institute to develop the treatment.
Dr Allen, who has been unable to walk since 2008, said his concentration, memory, hand function and leg movement had improved during the treatment.
There has also been reduced disease activity on brain scans and a reduction in antibodies in his spinal fluid.
“Whether you look at my work, time with my family or social life, it’s been an amazing change for the better,” said Dr Allen.
Dr Matthew Miles, Chief Executive of MS Research Australia, said he was delighted with the study.
“This has profound implications globally for understanding the cause and treatment of MS, particularly in its progressive phase.”
A report on the treatment is published in the latest issue of the Multiple Sclerosis Journal.