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MS Kids

Blood samples and mouth swabs

Blood samples

Patients provide a small blood sample at each study visit. Healthy research volunteers provide only one small blood sample. The total amount of blood taken is very small (less than 3 tablespoons), so it will not be missed. Visit  blood tests to learn more about how a blood sample is collected.  

Blood samples collected will be analyzed to identify both triggers and initial targets of demyelination.  We know that people with demyelination have immune cells that have decided to attack the white matter in the brain and spinal cord. We hope that by studying immune cells over time, we can learn what causes immune cells to behave differently. Ultimately, we hope to be able to predict which children with demyelination are at a higher risk of developing MS.


We think that certain viruses may be important in triggering demyelination. Some of the blood collected will be used to determine whether children with demyelination have been exposed to common childhood viruses. Blood samples collected from healthy research volunteers provide a means of comparison.

Mouth swabs

What is the Epstein-Barr virus or EBV?

Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a virus of the herpes family, is one the most common viruses infecting more than 95 per cent of healthy adults worldwide. EBV infection during early childhood is usually mild, with little or no symptoms and most people are not exposed to the virus until adolescence. Previous studies have shown that children with MS are more likely than healthy children of the same age to have been infected with this virus. EBV has also been shown to be similar in 'appearance' to myelin, which may fool the immune system into attacking myelin in the brain.

Since infection with EBV persists in the immune cells for life, and EBV is shed into the saliva every once in a while in all people who have had prior infection, we are interested in knowing whether children with MS shed EBV into the saliva more frequently than healthy children also infected with EBV.

To learn more about the potential role of infection with EBV in the development of MS in children, patients and healthy research volunteers are asked to provide a mouth swab when a blood sample is collected. After collection of one mouth swab at the initial research visit, patients and healthy research volunteers are asked to swab at home once per month for a period of 12 months.