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Common Foodborne Bacteria Might Be ‘Trigger’ For Multiple Sclerosis

Might it have been something they ate?

Race car driver Trevor Bayne, television personality Montel Williams, and Ann Romney are but a few of the celebrities among 400,000 Americans who were struck with multiple sclerosis in the prime of life. Most when diagnosed are 20 to 50 years old. Until now, why anyone contracted MS was a mystery. Now that mystery may be on its way to being solved.

More clues have emerged that MS may be triggered by the epsilon toxin produced by Clostridium perfrigens, the spore-causing bacterium that is a common cause of foodborne illness in the United States. Additional evidence that MS is triggered by this toxin produced by a common foodborne bacterium was presented by Weill Cornell Medical College researchers at the 2014 ASM Biodefense and Emerging Disease Research meeting held earlier this week in Washington, D.C.

The same team also identified the toxin-producing strain of C. perfringens in a young woman with MS in a scientific article published last October in the journal PLoS ONE.

The possibility of a food poisoning bacterium triggering the onset of MS does not end the mystery of the exact cause of the chronic, unpredictable disease of the central nervous system. Some combinations of genetic and environmental factors are probably root causes of what is thought to be an autoimmune disorder, meaning one where the immune system inexplicably attacks healthy tissue.

Weill Cornell’s Jennifer Linden said the research team provided evidence that supports epsilon toxin’s ability to cause blood brain permeability, and that the epsilon toxin kills the brain’s myelin-producing cells, known as oligodendrocytes. Those are the same cells that die in MS lesions. The researchers also found epsilon toxin goes after the retinal vascular and meningeal cells that are associated with MS inflammation.

The research also found C. perfringens bacteria in 13.7 percent of 37 food samples and the epsilon toxin gene in 2.7 percent. Linden said if the toxin is the trigger for MS, it’s possible antibodies or vaccines might be developed to halt its progression or even prevent it entirely.

Correction: The original version of this article stated that actor Michael J. Fox has multiple sclerosis. He does not; he has Parkinson’s disease. Food Safety News regrets the error.

© Food Safety News
  • KathMac

    NOTE TO EDITOR: as of January 30, the front page of this email still contains the erroneous reference to Michael J. Fox.

  • doc raymond

    Brooke Raymond is another person diagnosed at age 35 with MS. Although not so famous, she is much closer to my heart than the celebs. If the cause of this disease is so simple as to be a foodborne illness, then why is it 3 times more common in women than men, and why does it strike at mid-life instead of the young and the elderly, who are much more susceptible to foodborne illnesses? And why is the front range of Colorado a hot spot for the illness that is rarely seen closer to the equator? Want to help find the cure? Then send a check to the National MS Society to me at 6033 woodcliffe Drive, Windsor, CO, 80550 and I will see that it gets credited to our MS Walk team, Brooke’s Believers, that raised over $25,000 last year for research. Be a part of the solution, it will make you feel good 🙂

    • Jeannine Callon Jones

      I to have MS and find this “find” a bit curious but maybe it is one of many things that can turn the MS Gene on. Sorry I can’t personally send you a check to support the fight to find a cure for MS but I help support my local chapter. Thank you for all you do to help in the fight!!! It is much appreciated. 🙂

      • doc raymond

        I will write a blog tomorrow based on science and including quotes from the NMSS. Thanks for what you do to help find the cure.. the research pipeline is amazing.

    • Cindy

      I’m a Denver native and just now diagnosed with MS at 54 although I believe I’ve had it for at least a decade. My 2nd cousin a year older than I also has it (diagnosed 25 years ago), my mom’s 1st cousin had it and was diagnosed far too late. We all have the same thing in common, either growing up or spending time in Globeville where the Asarco Smelter was and was designated an EPA Superfund site back in the ’90’s. There is also an Asarco Smelter in El Paso, TX and it has been determined that there is an MS cluster in the area of that smelter. Apparently Colorado never cared enough to investigate the one in Globeville. I do believe it could very well be the food born toxin, who knows maybe our mothers had food poisoning while pregnant with us and passed it through the placenta, that could explain women getting it 3X more than men. I really think that this could be it, and there is already a vaccine out there that works for cattle for a different strain. Even if Colorado is a well known hot spot for MS, neither Denver Health or University Hospital care enough to even ask people if they have a family history of it when they end up in the ER. Had University Hospital asked me 2+ years ago I would have been diagnosed and been on medication much sooner and not suffering what looks to be permanent nerve damage now.

  • The researchers also note a genetic susceptibility to the disease, in combination with the environmental factors.

  • If they knew what caused MS this disease would of been cured years ago. Too many clutch at straws . While pharmas and others make billions out of this disease via the MS drugs a cure will never ever be found its too easy to work out whats really going on with MS financially. Too many are covering their own backs on MS. Lots is easy to work out