It seems that MS could have a new underlying cause. Check out what researchers have just discovered about the terrible disease below.
MS could have a new underlying cause
According to researchers at Rockefeller University, a bacteria that is often pathogenic and linked to multiple sclerosis (MS) could be responsible for triggering the disease through a toxin it produces. The researchers discovered that patients with MS have 1,000 times more Clostridium perfringens (C. perfringens) in their gut microbiomes.
The microbiome is a community of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi, that mostly coexist symbiotically with humans.
MS is an autoimmune disease that affects various systems of the body, with nearly one million Americans experiencing its impact. In patients with MS, the immune system attacks the myelin, the coating that insulates nerve fibers, causing damage to the myelin and disrupting the nerve signals going to and from the brain and spinal cord.
Studies have long suggested that a microbial infection might be the environmental trigger behind MS. In a 2017 study, gut microbiota transferred from MS patients to mice did indeed result in MS in the mice. This finding supports the idea that MS is caused by some form of microbial infection.
Dr. Kareem Rashid Rumah, a physician-scientist in Vincent Fischetti’s lab at Rockefeller, attempted to identify the microbe responsible for causing the disease. He noted a finding from a 1986 study that revealed people residing in areas with high sheep populations, especially Scotland and New Zealand, have a higher risk of developing MS.
“The bacteria C. perfringens, often found in sheep, makes over 20 different toxins,” he said in a recent university news release.
“Its epsilon toxin has been known to break down the blood-brain barrier and cause MS-like symptoms in sheep.”
Epsilon is one of the six major toxins produced by C. perfringens. It is believed to increase intestinal permeability and cause damage to areas as far away as the central nervous system, heart, and lungs. Dr. Rumah said that if Epsilon is the environmental trigger for MS, then it could be possible to develop a vaccine, monoclonal antibodies or some other therapy to treat it.
However, critics argue that instead of focusing on one bacterium as the cause of MS, it is better to consider the whole microbiome’s composition.
They suggest that leveraging the good bacteria in the microbial community is a more natural way to reduce the effects of this toxic bacterium.