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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Could a Common Soil Bacteria be the Trigger for Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?

Published Nov 3, 2013

A soil-based bacteria could possibly trigger MS, according to very exciting news from a new study by Weill Cornell Medical College. This is a very promising development in the MS research field since the trigger has thus far remained very elusive.
What Causes MS?
MS researchers  believe that MS is caused by a combination of two things. One, there must be an inherent genetic susceptibility for MS. Two, an environmental trigger activates MS in one with genetic susceptibility.
Researchers have found that even in identical twins, who share all the same DNA, there is only a 30 percent chance of both twins having MS. The rate of MS in fraternal twins (less than 1 percent) is the same as any other sibling pairings and is statistically very low.
If MS was purely a genetic based disease, than identical twins would both always get MS together. If MS was caused by a an environmental or lifestyle trigger, then fraternal twins would get MS in very similar levels to identical twins. So, the working theory is that it’s a combination.
This trigger is the elusive smoking gun for scientists. In theory, if we can prevent the trigger from being pulled, one with genetic susceptibility would not develop multiple sclerosis.
Could a Common Soil Bacteria be the Trigger?
Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College working with Rockefeller University announced that Clostridium perfringens type B, a very common soil bacterium, was found in a human for the first time in history. This human happened to be a 21-year-old person living with MS.
This bacterium is commonly found in grazing animals and when infected, it produces a toxin called epsilon. The epsilon toxin then goes through the blood stream to the brain, causing damage to brain blood vessels and myelin, a nerve coating. The resulting damages produces symptoms similar to that of MS in humans.
There are five types of  Clostridium perfringens. Some like type A appear to be harmless and are often found inside humans. While type D also emits epsilon toxin and was previously found in two other humans.
Was the Truth Hiding in Plain Sight?
A startling statistic demonstrated that patients with MS had levels of epsilon toxin antibodies ten times higher than those without MS.
“This bacterium produces a toxin that we normally think humans never encounter,” said Rashid K. Rumah in a press release.
“That we identified this bacterium in a human is important enough, but the fact that it is present in MS patients is truly significant because the toxin targets the exact tissues damaged during the acute MS disease process,” added Rashid, a sixth year MD-PhD student at Cornell University and first author of the study.
“[The bacterium] hibernates in a protective spore,” said Timothy Vartanian, professor of neurology and neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medical College and study author, in the press release.  ”When it does grow, we anticipate it generates a small quantity of epsilon toxin, which travels through the blood into the brain.”
He went on to add the current thinking is the  bacterium is always present, but “rears its ugly head from time to time.”
Skeptical of Breakthroughs
It sounds like such a major breakthrough. A common bacterium affecting grazing mammals, causing damage and symptoms so similar to human MS. And these symptoms have a relapsing – remitting feature to it as well. The news media and  MS patient advocacy groups should all being yelling a cautionary “hooray!” And yet there has been nothing more than a big yawn.
Perhaps that is because we are bombarded each and every day with new symptom treatment medications, devices or techniques. Its like a 24/7 scrolling news-feed of headlines promising the next big cure of small and sometimes big things. Perhaps we are lulled into  being emotionally numb due to overload. So many promises, so much disappointment.
The researchers from this article were very eager to let us know that although they described their research study’s sample size as small, its  study’s findings were so “intriguing” that it prompted them to start work on new MS treatments.
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