Murdoch Researcher Isolates MS Virus

Thursday, 26 October, 2000

After more than 30 years of research, Murdoch University Associate Professor Bob Cook has isolated a virus that could be the cause of multiple sclerosis (MS).

This finding has attracted commercial investment from Exodus Minerals, through its life sciences subsidiary InQbate, which could result in the creation of a diagnosistic tool for MS.

MS is a chronic disease affecting about 12,000 Australians and around two million people worldwide.

MS sufferers show similar signs to the physical effects of drunkenness including blurred vision, lack of coordination and slurred speech.

According to Professor Cook, more emphasis has been placed on the viral causes of the disease in recent years. Other researchers are looking at herpes-type viruses and retroviruses similar to AIDS, but results have been inconclusive. This current research, however, is slightly different. Scientists are examining recognised common features found in the damaged area of MS brains and have found that they are viral proteins rather than just myelin debris. This has led to the consistent isolation of a previously unknown virus from MS brain tissue.

It has taken some time to find ways to grow the virus rapidly, but it is now grown in nine to 10 days instead of seven weeks, thus facilitating research.

Though still early days, experiments indicate the virus is closely related to measles. Researchers need to complete the genetic sequence of the virus in order to use a small part as a substrate in a commercial test kit.

In the long term, researchers are hoping to develop a specific treatment for MS, and eventually, a vaccine.

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