Younger Siblings Lower Your MS Risk?

The next time you see your younger brother or sister, you may want to give them a hug just for being around while you were growing up. That contact with younger siblings may have protected you from developing multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a new study.

Scientists suspect a "hygiene" hypothesis offers a reasonable explanation for the connection. Because immunities form early in childhood, youngsters exposed to a variety of germs develop more antibodies, that could provide greater disease protection later in life.

For example, small children who are exposed to the Epstein-Barr virus (mononucleosis) may never become ill, yet teens who become infected could be sick for a month. However, viruses like Epstein-Barr can force the body's immune system to attack its own tissues and create nerve damage, causing symptoms commonly associated with MS. Conversely, older kids, who are much cleaner than young kids, offered no protection to their younger siblings from MS. Reseachers also theorize yYoung kids who attend day care may boost their MS immunity as well.

An expert with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, however, has a different idea about that "connection" and one that certainly make sense to me: A child's exposure to the sun was the real source of protection along with plenty of vitamin D.

Journal of the American Medical Association Vol. 293 No. 4, January 26, 2005, 463-469.

USA Today January 27, 2005

Post your comment
Click Here and be the first to comment on this article