Jun 07, 2006 6:00 PM

SALT LAKE CITY -- University of Utah School of Medicine physicians are seeking people with multiple sclerosis (MS) to take part in a study of the specific viruses responsible for common colds and their relationship to MS "attacks" or relapses.

University doctors want to enroll approximately 60 MS patients with colds who have experienced nasal or respiratory symptoms for only one or two days. Participants will be asked to come to the University of Utah Neurology Clinic, provide informed consent, samples of blood and nasal mucus, and undergo a neurological examination. One or more additional visits will be required during the subsequent five weeks. There is no cost to participate.

"This is a good opportunity for people with MS to contribute to locally conducted research into the causes of MS attacks," said John D. Kriesel, M.D., the study's principal investigator and assistant professor of internal medicine in infectious diseases.

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is funding the research with a grant of $242,900 and the Utah MS chapter strongly supports the study (www.fightmsutah.org), Kriesel said.

John W. Rose, M.D., professor of neurology, and David W. Hillyard, M.D., medical director of molecular infectious disease at ARUP Laboratories and associate professor of pathology, are the Utah co-investigators. The study also will include a site in Tucson, Ariz., headed by William Sibley, M.D., professor of neurology at the University of Arizona.

Multiple sclerosis is an often debilitating disease of unknown cause that damages the brain and spinal cord. MS is especially common in Utah, where several thousand people are estimated to have the disease.

The present study seeks to expand on research by Dr. Sibley and others showing the common cold triggers MS attacks. A recent pilot study at the U of U suggested colds due to rhinoviruses (the common cold virus) might specifically trigger MS attacks. The investigators believe the planned larger study may help identify specific viruses that can be targeted by vaccines or treated with antiviral drugs in MS patients, making attacks of the disease less common or severe.

People interested in receiving more information about the study are encouraged to contact:

Mark McKeough, Study Coordinator Viral Triggers of MS Study Phone: 801-581-6406 E-mail: mark.mckeough@hsc.utah.edu

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