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November 21, 1977

Multiple Sclerosis and House Pets

Author Affiliations

UCLA Medical Center Los Angeles

JAMA. 1977;238(21):2265. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03280220033014

To the Editor.—  To clear the air regarding multiple sclerosis and exposure to house pets (238:854, 1977), it should be pointed out that distemper in dogs is comparable to measles in human beings.1 The two viruses cause similar clinical illnesses in their respective hosts. Distemper and measles are related immunologically and pathologically. Pathologic changes in multiple sclerosis (MS) such as peri-vascular infiltration with lymphocytes and plasma cells and demyelination are similar to those seen in old dog encephalitis.2,3 Patients with multiple sclerosis have elevated levels of measles antibodies in their serum and cerebrospinal fluid.4 Optic neuritis in dogs with chronic distemper shows changes such as pallor of the discs similar to the findings in human patients with severe demyelinating disease such as MS. There is no firm evidence that human beings get distemper or measles from dogs. Likewise, dogs do not get measles from humans or from