A recent study published in Scientific Reports suggests that COVID-19 may trigger Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in susceptible individuals through a process known as “molecular mimicry.” The study conducted by scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, analyzed the structure of SARS-CoV-2 proteins and more than 100 brain proteins that have been established as immune targets in MS. They found that the nucleocapsid protein of the virus was similar to 22 MS-related proteins, including myelin proteolipid protein (PLP), in regions that have a high propensity for activating immune cells. This suggests that the virus might be structurally similar to brain proteins, leading to an erroneous immune attack on healthy brain cells, as a possible mechanism for how COVID-19 could trigger MS-like disease in susceptible individuals. However, the authors note that further research is needed to shed more light on the virus and its interactions with the immune system.
Lake, C.M., Breen, J.J. Sequence similarity between SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid and multiple sclerosis-associated proteins provides insight into viral neuropathogenesis following infection. Sci Rep 13, 389 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-27348-8