'Kissing disease' among teens could trigger MS - study

Results show children and teens contracting mono between the ages of 11 and 19 have a significantly higher risk of developing multiple sclerosis as an adult.

A kissing couple (photo credit: REUTERS)
A kissing couple
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Mononucleosis, commonly referred to as “mono” or the “kissing disease,” may be the reason some people develop multiple sclerosis later in life, new research indicates. 

A team of doctors in Sweden, whose study was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, found that a hospital-diagnosed mono infection among children and teens significantly increases the risk of developing adult-onset MS, a brain and spinal chord disease in which the immune system eats away at the protective covering of nerves.

The researchers looked at the impact of mono at different ages among 2.5 million people in Sweden, also taking into account the health of the participants’ siblings, which could confirm or dismiss the role of familial genetics in MS development. Overall, doctors diagnosed around 6,000 participants with MS after the age of 20.

Results show that children and teens who contracted the "kissing disease" between the ages of 11 and 19 have a significantly higher risk of developing MS as an adult. Specifically, this risk was highest among children with mono between 11 and 15 — the typical window for puberty.

Actor Selma Blair, who has battled multiple sclerosis (MS), poses with an Alinker 'walking bike', a mobility device for people with disabilities, in an unknown location in this undated handout photo.COURTESY OF BARBARA ALINK/ALINKER/HANDOUT VIA REUTERSActor Selma Blair, who has battled multiple sclerosis (MS), poses with an Alinker 'walking bike', a mobility device for people with disabilities, in an unknown location in this undated handout photo.COURTESY OF BARBARA ALINK/ALINKER/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS

The researchers concluded that a case of the infection around puberty may get into the brain, which could trigger MS, but the latter may not be diagnosed for another decade.