When Shana Pezaro was just 28 years old she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an incurable condition which can lead to loss of sight, pain, fatigue and disability. Eight years on and the former dancer and piano teacher from Hove, East Sussex had to rely on a wheelchair to get around. As if that wasn’t enough, she believed she may have contracted the HIV virus. Little did she know but this was the trigger for a remarkable transformation…and a great one at that. She was quickly prescribed antiretroviral treatment and miraculously within days of taking the drugs, her MS symptons started to ease. So much so that for the first time in years she managed to walk up stairs.
It is still early days but Ms Pezaro’s experience might just prove to be a major turning point in the battle against MS. When a Prof Julian Gold from the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney saw a video of Ms Pezaro climbing the stairs, a clinical trial was set up to look into the potential of antiretroviral drugs on MS patients. This builds on an earlier study which showed an association between HIV and MS and that antiretroviral treatment may suppress other viruses, including those which may cause MS. A spokeswoman for the MS Society said “Our growing understanding tells us that viruses have a role to play in multiple sclerosis and it will be interesting to see the trial results – positive findings mean another step on the road to beating MS.” As for Ms Pezaro, she said “Three days after I took the drugs I walked up a flight of stairs…That was an unbelievable, massive change.” Hopefully the 100,000 or so people in the UK affected by MS will soon be able to say the same.