Anti-HERV antiboides and interferon-beta therapy

Are HERVs active in MSers? Does interferon-beta suppress HERVs? #MSBlog #MSResearch

“In the HERV (human endogenous retrovirus virus) MS field some groups think HERV-W is the culprit. This study looked at antibody responses to the virus in MSers, The idea being if the virus was active and expressing its outer coat protein, or envelope (env) protein. It looks as if the hypothesis is holding true with higher antibody levels against the virus in MSers compared to controls with a reduction after 66 months interferon-beta therapy. Just may be interferon beta is working by suppressing HERVs? What do you  think?”

Mameli et al. Epitopes of HERV-Wenv induce antigen-specific humoral immunity in multiple sclerosis patients. J Neuroimmunol. 2015 Mar 15;280:66-8

To verify the serological response mounted against antigenic peptides from HERV-Wenv protein, we analyzed 80 multiple sclerosis (MS) serum samples, 27 of which were re-analyzed after a 6-month follow-up IFN-β therapy, and 73 healthy controls. Indirect ELISAs were carried out to detect antibodies specific for all the synthetic peptides derived from HERV-Wenv. Two antigenic peptides, HERV-Wenv93-108 (31.25%, p<0.0001) and HERV-Wenv248-262 (15%, p=0.02), were highly recognized by MS patients’ antibodies when compared to healthy subjects. Moreover, antibody titer against these two peptides slightly decreased after six months of IFN-β-based therapy.

About the author

Prof G

Professor of Neurology, Barts & The London. MS & Preventive Neurology thinker, blogger, runner, vegetable gardener, husband, father, cook and wine & food lover.


  • I got the chance to talk to Prof. Lassmann a while ago and he mentioned an Italian group whose results could not be reproduced by several other groups. Since this conversation was about the viral hypothesis I'm wondering if he was talking about this Sardinian team?
    I can't find any information of other groups trying to reproduce Mamelis HERV results.
    ProfG, can you help with this?

    • We are just completing the data cleaning and then will enter all data into the computer for analysis. I am hopeful we will have some results within 3-4 months. I know it's a little frustrating, but we are all working really hard on it.

    • Prof Gold,

      What data are we talking about? I thought there were only 22 patients on the trial and the main outcome measure was the number of lesions on MRI – which I assume would be calculated by the radiologist. My neuro sends me for an MRI and the report is back with three days. For £200 I can get my DNA analysed and a report within a week. I thought the Charcot project was a quick study of whether those on the real drug had fewer lesions as detected by MRI. It is a bigger piece of work than I had assumed. Best wishes.

    • Yes, it is a bigger piece of work. As this is a clinical trial all data has to be verified by the external monitors and certified as correct. The administrative aspects of this, seemingly straigtforward trial, have astounded me. Unfortunately all this is completly out of my control. I can now absolutely appreciate why these trials take so much time; mostly nothing to do with the clinician (me) or ProfG who are involved.

  • "Just may be interferon beta is working by suppressing HERVs? What do you think?"

    I think interferons are not anti-viral but rather are a chemical message released by virally infected cells to notify other healthy cells of a threat.

    I suspect this effects cells by preparing them for a potential viral infection one of which is making the BBB less permeable.

    I think Interferons have in fact been shown to have this effect on the BBB.

By Prof G



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