Scientists find bacteria that may cause MS

One of the most common bacteria in the world may be a trigger for multiple sclerosis, say researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College and Rockefeller University. They noted in the journal PLOS ONE that the bacterium Clostridium C. perfringens, commonly found in soil, has some dangerous forms that can destroy the neurological system.

Clostrodium perfringens has five types: A through E. Type A is in the human gastrointestinal tract and is harmless. However, types B and D carry a gene, an epsilon toxin, which can have harmful effects. These genes release a protoxin that turns into a potent epsilon toxin in the GI tract that travels via the blood stream to the brain, damaging brain blood vessels and myelin. The results are symptoms that are similar to MS.

Blood, spinal fluid, and stool samples were taken from MS patients to test for antibody reactivity to epsilon toxin. These samples were compared to patients without MS. Researchers discovered that epsilon toxin antibodies were 10 times higher in MS patients than in those without MS. The stool samples also showed 23 percent of MS patients contained the healthy type A bacterium, versus 52 percent of patients without MS.

Researchers believe type B and D of this bacterium can stay dormant in a protective spore in the GI tract, until it grows and travels to the brain. Although this study was small, the team has begun researching treatments for destroying or blocking these bacterium.

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