Multiple sclerosis (MS) could possibly be caused by bacterial toxins, according to a study published by Weill Cornell Medical College. MS is an inflammatory disease which sees the body’s immune system attack how nerves transmit signals to the rest of the body. It’s also characterized by a process called demyelination, which sees the myelin sheaths of nerves gradually degrade.
This information about bacterial toxins sheds new light on how MS could be caused. Certainly, the disease has undergone a number of studies over the years, with the most recent hope for MS patients coming with the controversial CCSVI treatment of a few years ago.
It’s suspected that the toxin produced by Clostridium perfringens, a bacterium which leads to a million instances of food poisoning yearly, could be triggering MS in the 400,000 or so American sufferers. 13 percent of a sample of food products tested positive for the C. perfringens bacterium by Weill Cornell medical researcher Jennifer Linden, and of that, 3 percent tested possible for the toxin involved in MS.
Researchers caution, however, that it is far too soon to say that multiple sclerosis is definitely caused by food poisoning. Linden said if it could be confirmed that epsilon toxin, the toxin present in MS patients, a vaccine could potentially be devised and treatment could begin for thousands of MS patients. That, of course, is a long time off, as research needs to continue into the progress of the disease. It has been shown, however, that the epsilon toxin does attack the blood-brain barrier and the cells that produce myelin in the brain, which are the cells that die in multiple sclerosis lesions. Discovering what the toxin attacks has helped medical professionals gain some insight into what has plagued those with the condition for years.
In discovering that multiple sclerosis could possibly be caused by bacterial toxins, Dr Susan Kohlhaas, Head of Biomedical Research at the MS Society, acknowledged that there is still a lot of research ahead. She said that the news allows researchers and medical professionals to develop stronger protocols for treatment of MS, but there still is a great deal of work to come. Nonetheless, this opening salvo of research is promising.
Most people who have food poisoning, which is caused by Clostridium perfringens, have the A strain of the bacterium, but the epsilon toxin is present in the B and D strains, which is not frequently found in humans. However, a 21-year-old multiple sclerosis patient was tested and found to have the B strain of the bacterium, which researchers were excited about, as that proved infection was indeed possible. Researchers also tested banked blood from MS patients and found that multiple sclerosis patients were 10 times more likely to have the antibodies proving they’d been previously exposed to the epsilon toxin.
With the discovery that multiple sclerosis could possibly be caused by bacterial toxins, researchers have seen that meningeal cells are also attacked by the epsilon toxin, which could offer some explanation for the meningeal inflammation seen in multiple sclerosis patients. This inflammation has never been fully understood, so this recent discovery about Clostridium perfringens has given medical professionals hope in better understanding the progress of multiple sclerosis. There is still a great deal of research to be done, but doctors and medical professionals alike are excited about what the research promises thus far.
By Christina St-Jean