Toxin Found As Potential Trigger For MS

shutterstock_154513748Multiple sclerosis is still considered as a disease that researchers need to understand better. There are many perplexing unknowns associated with the disease that kept scientists from finding a cure. But the researchers are still continuing to study the disease in hopes to find a cure. One of the recent findings indicate that a food borne bacterial toxin may be a potential trigger for MS.

According to researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College, a growing body of evidence suggests that a compound called the epsilon toxin may also trigger multiple sclerosis. The researchers identified the toxin that is produced by certain strains of clostridium perfringens, a spore-forming bacterium known to be a common cause of food-related illness in the US.

Previous studies suggested that C. perfringens might play a role in triggering the development of MS. Jennifer Linden, a researcher from Weill Cornell Medical College and presenter of the said study, along with colleagues discovered a C. perfringens type B in a 21-year old woman who also experienced a flare up of MS. This bacterial strain is not known to infect humans but produces the epsilon toxin. To further test whether the epsilon toxin may be a potential MS trigger, the researchers studied the behavior of the said toxin in mice, most especially in trying to identify the cells that it may be targeting.

The researchers discovered that the toxin targeted the brain cells that is also associated with the flare up of MS. According to the researchers, the epsilon toxin may have an effect on the blood brain permeability and can also kill the brain’s myelin producing cells called oligodendrocytes.

But there is more to their discovery. “Originally, we only thought that epsilon toxin would target the brain endothelium cells and oligodendrocytes; we just happened to notice that it also bound to and killed meningeal cells. This was exciting because it provides a possible explanation for meningeal inflammation and subpial cortical lesions exclusively observed in MS patients, but not fully understood,” Linden said.

Linden and her colleagues say that these findings are important. It may be possible down the line that developing a neutralizing agent that targets the epsilon toxin may be helpful in stopping the progression of the disease or even prevent it from developing. The results of the study were recently presented at the 2014 ASM Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research Meeting.

Source: American Society for Microbiology. (2014, January 28). Bacterial toxin potential trigger for multiple sclerosis. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 4, 2014 from

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